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WHISTLING DUCKS (genus Dendrocygna)


Study Site: Moscow Zoo, Tierpark Berlin (Germany), molecular diagnostics methods Laboratory of Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution RAS (Russia).
Dates: sound recordings 2001-2004, diagnostics in the Lab 2004-2005.
Participants: Volodin Ilya, Volodina Elena, Klenova Anna, Matrosova Vera.
Collaborators: Kaiser Martin (Tierpark Berlin, Germany), Kholodova Marina (Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution RAS), Filatova Olga (Lomonosov Moscow State Uneversity).
Popular papers: <
Science & Life>, <Mir ptits>.


Acoustic recordings of four species of whistling ducks, white-faced Dendrocygna viduata, fulvous D. bicolor, Kuban D. arborea and red-billed D. autumnalis, were made from birds tagged with individuall sets of color leg rings.

The project has a few research focuses:

  • Searching the vocal indicatore of identity and sex of a caller in birds without external sex dimorphism.
  • Comparison of accurracy of performance with different methods of sexing in the studied birds (cloacal inspection, DNA-based diagnostoc, acoustic-based sexing).
  • Description of species-specific vocalizations in the whistling ducks.

As male and female whistling ducks are indistinguishable by appearance in all the eight species of whistling ducks (Dendrocygna), sexing birds of this genus is complicated. Up to recently, zoo keepers could use only invasive methods of sexing (cloacal inspection and analysis of DNA taken from blood and feather samples). Disadvantages of these methods are the necessity to capture birds, needs in high qualification of the staff conducting the procedures, time-consuming analysis and needs in especial equipment for the DNA examination. Because of these difficulties, many zoos, keeping only one or a few ducks, do not determine their sex at all, as time and labor expenses are too high.
All species of whistling ducks produce species-specific loud whistles. We found that sex differences in these calls were so strong, that can be easily recognized by ear, after a short preliminary training with recordings of these calls.


sound videoSounds in the Gallery.

sexing D_viduata loud whistle




  • Volodin I.A., Volodina E.V., Klenova A.V., Matrosova V.A. Gender identification using acoustic analysis in birds without external sexual dimorphism // Avian Research, 2015, V. 6:20, P. 1-17. DOI 10.1186/s40657-015-0033-y 220.pdf
  • Volodin I., Kaiser M., Matrosova V., Volodina E., Klenova A., Filatova O., Kholodova M. The technique of noninvasive distant sexing for four monomorphic Dendrocygna whistling duck species by their loud whistles // Bioacoustics, 2009, v. 18, N 3, p. 277-290. 163.pdf
  • Volodin I.A., Volodina E.V., Matrosova V.A., Kholodova M.V. Bioacoustical sexing with playback-evoked loud whistles in the Cuban whistling duck Dendrocygna arborea // “Scientific researches in Zoos”, Iss. 18, Moscow, 2005, p. 105-112. (available in Russian). 139.pdf
  • Volodin I.A., Volodina E.V., Klenova A.V., Filatova O.A. Individual and sexual differences in the calls of the monomorphic White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata // Acta Ornithologica, 2005, v. 40, N 1, p. 43-52. 138.pdf
  • Volodin I.A., Volodina E.V., Klenova A.V. Comparison of visual classification and discriminant function analysis as applied to calls of white-faced whistling ducks (Dendrocygna viduata) // Casarca (Bulletin of Goose, Swan and Duck Study Group of Northern Eurasia), Moscow, 2004, Iss. 10, p. 107-118. (available in Russian). 136.pdf
  • Volodin I.A., Volodina E.V., Klenova A.V. Non-invasive sex recognition in the white-faced whistling duck // Int. Zoo News, 2003, v. 50, N 3, p. 160-167. 131.pdf
  • Volodin I.A., Volodina E.V., Klenova A.V. Undoubt sex estimation on loud whistles in the monomorphous white-faced whistling duck Dendrocygna viduata // In: "Scientific researches in Zoos”, Iss. 16, Moscow, 2003, p. 90-100. (available in Russian). 130.pdf
  • Volodina E.V., Volodin I.A. Vocal repertoire and individual variability in calls of the fulvous whistling duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) // Casarca (Bulletin of Goose, Swan and Duck Study Group of Northern Eurasia), 2003, Iss. 9, p. 67-77. (available in Russian). 128.pdf