By Jennifer Nixon, Denver Zoo Bird Keeper
Introducing this week’s feathered friend, Festus. She is a white-faced whistling duck (Dendrocygna viduata). She was hatched here in Denver Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center in 2012. Her mom was not consistently sitting on the eggs so the bird keepers removed her eggs and put them in an artificial incubator. A total of four eggs hatched, three girls and one boy. All the chicks were named after characters in Gunsmoke (a radio and TV western) because they all stick together like an old western gang. Festus is the toughest of the group after a rough start in life. Most likely due to her inconsistent incubation before her egg was moved to the incubator, she was hatched with an incomplete left wing and a rotated pelvic girdle. Despite her challenges, Festus has thrived with her siblings. You can recognize her by her gait, as she walks with a noticeable limp, and she is not wearing any leg bands.
White-faced whistling ducks are known for their little white faces and the adorable “whee-whee-whee” call that sounds exactly like a whistle. They are also highly social and are typically found in large groups up to thousands of individuals in the wild. They are native to tropical areas of South America and throughout Africa. Partially because they have such a large range they are not endangered.
Festus and her siblings enjoy eating mealworms, crickets, waterfowl pellets (specially made pellets for ducks) and lettuce. She especially enjoys dabbling for her food in the pool similar to how these ducks eat in the wild. Now, Festus and her siblings live in the Aquatics room of Bird World sponsored by Frontier Airlines. Her parents can be found in the Rainforest room in the same building.