Could Whitney and Whitey Pass the Duck Test?

Photograph of White-Faced Whistling-Duck

“If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck—then I call it a duck!”

Called “The Duck Test,” this little trope was coined in the 19th century by Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley—the same folksy rhymester who penned the verses to Little Orphan Annie.

Ever since, The Duck Test has been cited by everyone from linguists and automaton makers to artificial intelligence researchers. In North America, at least, The Duck Test has risen from the lowly swamps of folk wisdom to the awesome altitude of a philosophical truism.

So imagine my consternation when I met a distinguished pair of birds who plainly qualified as Ducks, yet refused to quack!

Perhaps our philosophers should fly South to Brazil or Sub-Saharan Africa, where great rafts of over a thousand White-Faced Whistling Ducks sometimes alight at dawn upon their favorite feeding sites.

Silent they’re not, but nary a quack will you hear in these awesome flocks. Instead they whistle, rather like songbirds—a three-note melody, Weet, wee-wooo!

Weet, wee-wooo! Weet, wee-wooo! Weet, wee-wooo! I think I might have heard Whitey whistling this sweet little song to Whitney. Or perhaps I imagined it, but my camera captured their likeness—and they led me then on a merry chase to name them. I encountered them in Delaware and assumed them US citizens, but my North American bird books hadn’t a clue whom they could be.

Finally I Googled “South America White Head Duck” and presto! Thousands of my mystery birds appeared.

How do YOU like Whitey and Whitney? I think they’re cute as quackless buttons, but please tell me what you think! Your LIKE and COMMENT will make my day, dear follower!

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