BirdLife species factsheet for West Indian Whistling-duck
West Indian Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea) occurs in the Caribbean. It is found in the Bahamas, on Turks and Caicos, as well as on the Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles south to Guadeloupe. The global population is estimated at 10,000-19,999 individuals (L. G. Sorenson in litt. 2007, L. Mugica in litt. 2011), which roughly equates to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals. The largest population of up to 14,000 individuals is found in Cuba (Acosta-Cruz and Mugica-Valdés in litt. 2006). A further 1,500 individuals occur in the Bahamas; 4,500 individuals are found on other islands. Overall, the estimate of the global population size is conservative; it may be revised upwards if more recent estimates become available.
West Indian Whistling-duck inhabits mangroves, reeds and swamps; at dusk it forages in freshwater, brackish and saline ponds or tidal flats (Sorenson et al. 2004, L. G. Sorenson in litt. 2007). The species tolerates or even favours man-made habitats like dams or agricultural fields (Carboneras and Kirwan 2019).
Once abundant and widespread, West Indian Whistling-duck has declined throughout most of its range in the past. The species is threatened by the loss and degradation of wetland habitat, predation by introduced mammals, hunting, as well as increasing droughts and sea-level rise associated with climate change (Staus 2005, Neelin et al. 2006, L. G. Sorenson in litt. 2007, 2012). Despite these threats, the population is increasing at a moderate rate, owing to conservation efforts throughout the range (L. G. Sorenson in litt. 2012). Since 1997, environmental education and awareness campaigns are carried out, which proved successful in changing attitudes and so far encouraged the creation of protected areas and reduced illegal hunting of the species (Sorenson et al. 2004, Lawrence 2019).
West Indian Whistling-duck is currently listed as Vulnerable under Criterion B2ab(i,ii,iii,iv) (BirdLife International 2019). However, reviewing our information about the population trend and distribution range of this species, it seems like both category and criterion have been applied too precautionarily, particularly as we do not have reliable data on the Area of Occupancy of the species. West Indian Whistling-duck appears to warrant a change in Red List status. Therefore, we present here our reassessment against all criteria for the species.
Criterion A – The declines seem to be historical, and the population is currently assumed to recover due to intense conservation action. The population is estimated to increase at a rate of 10-19% over three generations (15.9 years). Overall, the species would not warrant listing as threatened under Criterion A. However, the species may have qualified as threatened under this criterion were it not for continued conservation efforts. Therefore, West Indian Whistling-duck may be precautionarily listed as Near Threatened under Criterion A2cde.
Criterion B – The Extent of Occurrence (EOO) has been calculated as 1,260,000 km2, which is far too large to meet the threshold for Vulnerable under Criterion B1 (EOO < 20,000 km2). As such, West Indian Whistling-duck may be listed as Least Concern under Criterion B1. The Area of Occupancy (AOO) has not been estimated. Records suggest that the species is widespread throughout the Caribbean, from Bahamas and Turks and Caicos through the Greater Antilles to the Lesser Antilles (eBird 2019). Therefore, the previous assumption of an AOO of less than 2,000 km2 is no longer tenable; in fact, we do not have a value for the AOO of the species. Thus, it cannot be assessed against Criterion B2.
Criterion C – The population size is estimated at 6,000-15,000 mature individuals. Even though the lower end of the estimate meets the threshold for listing under Criterion C (< 10,000 mature individuals), the population is increasing and therefore does not meet sufficient conditions to warrant listing as threatened. Hence, the species may be considered Least Concern under this criterion.
Criterion D – The population size and range of West Indian Whistling-duck is too large to warrant listing under Criterion D (< 1,000 mature individuals). As such, the species may be considered Least Concern under this criterion.
Criterion E – To the best of our knowledge, no quantitative analysis of extinction risk has been conducted for this species. Therefore, it cannot be assessed against this criterion.
Therefore, it is proposed that West Indian Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea) be listed as Near Threatened under Criterion A2cde. We welcome any comments on this proposed listing.
Please note that this topic is not designed to be a general discussion about the ecology of the species, rather a discussion of its Red List status. Therefore, please make sure your comments are relevant to the discussion outlined in the topic.
An information booklet on the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here and the Red List Criteria Summary Sheet can be downloaded here. Detailed guidance on IUCN Red List terms and definitions and the application of the Red List Categories and Criteria can be downloaded here.
BirdLife International. 2019. Species factsheet: Dendrocygna arborea. http://www.birdlife.org. (Accessed 15 April 2019).
Carboneras, C.; Kirwan, G. M. 2019. West Indian Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D. A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. https://www.hbw.com/node/52800 (Accessed 15 April 2019).
eBird. 2019. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca, NY, U.S.A. http://www.ebird.org (Accessed 15 April 2019).
Lawrence, N. 2019. Conserving West Indian Whistling-ducks on Antigua and Barbuda’s Offshore Islands. Final Report. Conservation Leadership Programme.
Neelin, J. D.; Münnich, M.; Su, H.; Meyerson, J. E.; Holloway, C. E. 2006. Tropical drying trends in global warming models and observations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103(16): 6110-6115.
Sorenson, L. G.; Bradley, P.E.; Sutton, A.H. 2004. The West Indian Whistling-duck and Wetlands Conservation Project: a model for species and wetlands conservation and education. Journal of Caribbean Ornithology 17(Special issue): 72-80.
Staus, N. L. 2005. West Indian Whistling-duck Dendrocygna arborea. In: Kear, J. (ed.). Ducks, Geese and Swans, pp. 197-199. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.