Photo: A Fulvous Whistling Duck arrived at Brereton Heath Country Park in Cheshire between Holmes Chapel and Somerford on 17th March 2015 and was still present on at least 24th April 2015

Could the Fulvous Whistling Duck be occurring in Britain as a natural arrival ?

This species is on Category E of the British List – for species that have been recorded in the wild but as known/presumed introductions/escapees from captivity

It is a long-shot vagrant and, as per usual, it is very difficult to tell with ducks whether they are escapes or releases from captivity

However, there is always a case for innocent until proven guilty and keeping an open mind, in particular when birds show no visible signs of previously being in captivity (such as leg rings that aren’t used in any wild ringing projects, evidence of wing clipping, etc)

The facts are that birds can fly, often fly long distances and can change/adapt behaviour when searching for food

Fulvous Whistling Duck, also known as the Fulvous Tree Duck, is a bird of Africa, North, Central, South America and Asia, and has been experiencing a northwards expansion range in the Americas, into Central America and Florida

The world population is thought to be over 2 million birds and wild birds could potentially arrive in Britain from the American or African populations

It is on the Western Palearctic list due to a flock of 11 birds seen in Morocco and some birds seen in Europe are also thought to be wild birds

The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula states “There are 15 Iberian observations, all from Spain. Although the sample is small, the records show peak occurrences in spring and autumn. This also applies to observations in France, where the records include a flock of six in April 2007. Taken together, the Western Palearctic records known to us, including those from Spain and Morocco plus 11 dated ones from France, four from Germany and one each from Italy and the Azores, show spring and autumn occurrence peaks. At least some of the European occurrences may be natural and linked to rainfall patterns in the Sahel, where dry years may trigger long-distance dispersal in this and other aquatic species”

Whistling Ducks are named for their unique and distinctive call

Two other species are on Category E of the British List

White-faced Whistling Duck (Africa)

Lesser Whistling Duck (Asia)

UK records of Fulvous Whistling Duck include

A breeding pair in Dorset in the 1980’s

Weir Wood Reservoir, 1980’s

Four, Ditchford and Stanwick Gravel Pits, Northamptonshire, October 1997

Prestatyn Shore, Clwyd, 2000

Bird Rock/Hoylake Shore, Wirral, September 2000

Two, Chichester Harbour, 2003/2004

Dawlish Warren, Devon, December 2004 (with a flock of Brent Geese)

Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire, April 2006

Four, Chichester Gravel Pits, Sussex, November 2006

Three, Hill Head/Titchfield Haven, Hampshire, 2007 onwards

Whittle Dene Reservoir, Northumberland, June 2007

East Chevington NWT, Northumberland, September 2007

Private site, Nottinghamshire, May 2008

Frampton Marsh, Lincolnshire, May-June 2010

Ditchford Gravel Pits, Northamptonshire, August 2010

Blacktoft Sands, Yorkshire, October 2010

Three, Topsham, Devon, December 2010

Two, Hertford, Herts, May 2011

Rutland Water, Leicestershire, January/February 2015

Brereton Heath Country Park, Cheshire, March/April 2015

Brandon Marsh, Warwickshire, May 2015



Birdguides, Fulvous Whistling Duck


British List, Category E species


Brandon Marsh sightings


Rutland Water sighting


Hoylake sighting


Topsham sighting


Dawlish Warren sighting of a bird with a Brent Goose flock


White-faced Whistling Duck at Titchwell RSPB Reserve, Norfolk, May 2015


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