The adult males have the front half of their head and throat white and the rest of their head and neck are black with white patches on the underside of the neck the lower neck and wing shoulders are chestnut; their flanks are barred black on white the rest of the underparts, underside of wings, the rump and tail are black.
Their back and scapulars are olive brown edged with golden buff, eyes are brown, the bill is black, feet, toes and webs are blue with black markings. The female is similar but has the front of the head and neck spot tinged with rust color. Although it has the long neck and long legs of other tree ducks, it does not spend much time perched in trees but prefers sand banks. It behaves more like a goose or swan than a typical duck.
They eat underwater tubers and seeds of aquatic plants, also molluscs, small aquatic animals and invertebrates such as aquatic insects, they commonly obtain their food by diving.
Nests are built of leaves on the ground in marshes and also in hollow trees. Mutual preening plays an important part in the formation of pairs and maintenance of bonds. Clutches consist of 6 to 12 eggs, and both partners incubate the eggs for 28 to 30 days. The ducklings are often hidden in aquatic vegetation by the parents.
A highly social species with flocks often numbering in the hundreds. Mutual preening is highly developed. and is important for permanent pair bonding. Foraging is primarily at night, so there is much nocturnal flying. There is a good deal of nomadic movement of the birds. They are often found in association with the fulvous whistling duck.
It vocalizes frequently with distinctive high-pitched, multisyllabic whistles which sound very unduck-like. Male and female calls differ slightly and may be a bonding mechanism. Its attractive appearance make it a popular bird in waterfowl collections. They are usually in flocks. They spend a lot of time sitting on the banks.
Most foraging activity takes place at night; during the day the birds roost near the water, often in flocks of several hundred, and preen themselves and others. Whistling ducks are more arboreal than many other species of duck, spending part of the day perched on a branch. They are fast swimmers but do not dive except for food.
They are found at dams, lakes, rivers, estuaries, sewage dams and floodplains. A variety of freshwater, open wetland areas such as lakes, swamps, marshes. Occasionally found in small bodies of open water.
Where they are found
They are found in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Northern Namibia, Eastern Botswana and Eastern side of South Africa.