Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks

23 08 2010

These Neotropic waterfowl live in places like Mexico, Central and South America.  As you can see on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, this species barely reaches into the United States in southern Texas and southeast Arizona.  The majority of their numbers are much further south, in places like Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil (and even as far south as Argentina).

Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck

This summer, however, a trio of Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks arrived at Cape May Point State Park.  There is good reason for Cape May’s reputation as an excellent birding location, and the presence of these ducks proves it yet again.  Birders rushed from all over to see the birds, who cooperatively hung out with a flock of mallards in Lighthouse Pond.

The Three Musketeers

There was no need for the rush, though.  The three birds are still in the pond over a month after their first sighting.  It’s rare enough for this species to be seen in the Garden State – but to hang around for the better part of a summer?  Well, that’s just about unheard of.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Cape May this past weekend, and found the ducks in Lighthouse Pond, mingling with a large group of mallards right next to the bird blind.  They seemed totally in their element, preening and feeding throughout the day, as if they weren’t (at least) 2,000 miles north of where they “should” be.

As always, it’s important to remember that rarities and vagrants are probably more stressed than the expected birds in any given locale.  They should be given plenty of space and birders should be mindful of their actions.  With these Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducks, though, there wasn’t much anxiety on my part.  I stood in the blind as they swam out in front of me, oblivious to my excitement over their bathing and dabbling.

Bath time




2 responses

1 09 2010

wow! I’d have loved to know these ducks were there in Cape may. from 2002 to 2007 I lived in a house right on Barnegat Bay in Manahawkin, and I spent a good part of the winter months glued to my patio doors, amazed and awed at all the beautiful ducks that winter on our coast.

I would love to start going on birding trips in the area, especially to cape may. We are lucky to have such a place for seeing birds so close to home!

12 10 2010
Kurt Hasselman

Nice photos!
I had not heard about the Whistlers at The Cape, so when I saw them out on the pond, it was quite a surprise (as was the Brigantine Spoonbill a few years back), and it’s always so much more fun to be surprised by these guys than it is to go out looking for something you’d heard about. Not to mention, I hate hanging around with the bird paparazzi, and have missed seeing/photographing a number of great birds simply because I didn’t want to be part of that scene. And for what?, to capture another bird or add it to your life list, please, I’d like to think there’s more to life than checking off boxes in the back of a field guide!
FYI, when I spotted these guys on September 17th there were FOUR (, which I find quite interesting considering you mention only 3.
Maybe there’s more to this than we thought!

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