Our Beautiful World

Common Shelducks, Tadorna, No: Gravender 

© Lubomir Hlasek, http://www.hlasek.com

The shelducks, genus Tadorna, are a group of large birds in the Tadorninae subfamily of the Anatidae,
the biological family that includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl such as the geese and swans.

The shelducks are a group of larger often semi-terrestrial waterfowl, which can be seen as intermediate between
geese (Anserinae) and ducks. They are mid-sized (some 50–60 cm) Old World waterfowl.

The sexes are colored slightly different in most species, and all have a characteristic upperwing coloration in flight:
the tertiary remiges form a green speculum, the secondaries and primaries are black, and the coverts (forewing)
are white. Their diet consists of small shore animals (winkles, crabs etc.) as well as grasses and other plants.

They were originally known as "sheldrakes", this remained the most common name until the late 19th century.
The word is still sometimes used to refer to a male shelduck and can also occasionally refer to the Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) of North America.

Tadorna tadorna, Gravand, Common Shelduck
Tadorna ferruginea, Rustand Ruddy Shelduck
Tadorna cana, Kapprustand South African Shelduck, Cape Shelduck
Tadorna tadornoides, Praktrustand Australian Shelduck
Tadorna variegata, Maorirustand Paradise Shelduck
Tadorna cristata, Koreagravand Crested Shelduck
possibly extinct (late 20th century?)
Tadorna radjah, Beltegravand Radjah Shelduck

Common Shelduck , Kapprustand , Tadorna tadorna, No: Gravand,

Photo: © Dennis Olsen

The Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) is a waterfowl species shelduck genus Tadorna. It is widespread and common in Eurasia, mainly breeding in temperate and wintering in subtropical regions; in winter, it can also be found in the Maghreb.
Its scientific name comes from Celtic roots and means "pied waterfowl", essentially the same as the English "shelduck".

This is a bird which breeds in temperate Eurasia. Most populations migrate to subtropical areas in winter, but this species
is largely resident in westernmost Europe, apart from movements to favoured moulting grounds, such as the Wadden Sea
on the north German coast.

The Common Shelduck is common around the coastline of Great Britain (where it is simply known as Shelduck),
where it frequents salt marshes and estuaries. Sightings of this bird are rare in North America and are reported as infrequent
visitors to the U.S. and Canada.

Photo © Jørgen Scheel

The Common Shelduck resembles a small short-necked goose in size and shape.
It is a striking bird, with a reddish-pink bill, pink feet, a white body with chestnut patches and a black belly,
and a dark green head and neck.
The wing coverts are white, the primary remiges black, and the secondaries green (only showing in flight) and chestnut.
The underwings are almost entirely white. Sexes are similar, but the female is smaller, with some white facial markings,
while the male is particularly crisply colored in the breeding season, his bill bright red and bearing a prominent knob at
the forehead.

The Common Shelduck finds its food in shallow water along the coast.
Most if its diet consists of a small Hydrobia-snail, which it finds by filtering the mud.

Hydrobia ssp

Photo © Jørgen Scheel

The Common Shelduck arrive to their breedingplaces around March-April. During the winter most of the
european population of about 100.000 birds, meet at
Knechtsand in the German Bay. .

The Großer Knechtsand is a large sandbank beyond the Weser and Elbe estuaries (in the Elbe-Weser Triangle).
The central area of the sandbank lies above the high water mark, forming the Hochsand of Hoher Knechtsand,
which was formerly an island.

The Hoher Knechtsand measures 2.5 km in an east-west direction and is between 600 metres wide in the west and 1.6 km wide
in the east. The area of the sandbank above the high water mark is about 2.6 km².

The Großer Knechtsand, together with the island of Trischen, is one of the most important moulting areas for the shelduck,
and, with Trischen, Norderoog and Minsener Oog, has one of the largest and longest-lasting colonies of Sandwich Terns.
Eider duck and common seal also occur here in large numbers.

Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea, No: Rustand
Dutch: Rode casarca German: Rostgans French: Casarca roux Español: Tarro canelo

The Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea, is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. In India it is known as the Brahminy Duck.

There are very small resident populations of this species in north west Africa and Ethiopia, but the main breeding area
of this species is from south east Europe across central Asia to southeast China. These birds are mostly migratory,
wintering in southern Asia.

.Although becoming quite rare in southeast Europe and southern Spain, the Ruddy Shelduck is still common across
much of its Asian range. It may be this population which gives rise to vagrants as far west as Iceland, Great Britain
and Ireland. However, since the European population is declining, it is likely that most occurrences in western Europe
in recent decades are escapes or feral birds. Although this bird is observed in the wild from time to time in eastern North
America, no evidence of a genuine vagrant has been found.

This is a bird of open country, and it will breed on cliffs, in burrows, tree holes or crevices distant from water, laying 6-16
creamy-white eggs, incubated for 30 days. The Ruddy Shelduck is usually found in pairs or small groups and rarely forms
large flocks. However, moulting and wintering gatherings on chosen lakes or slow rivers can be very large.

ARKive video - Ruddy shelducks swimming and in flight

Ruddy shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Gloucestershire, England.The Ruddy
Shelduck is a distinctive species, 58–70 cm long with a 110–135 cm wingspan. It has orange-brown body plumage and
a paler head. The wings are white with black flight feathers. It swims well, and in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than
a duck. The sexes of this striking species are similar, but the male has a black ring at the bottom of the neck in the breeding
season summer, and the female often has a white face patch. The call are is a loud wild honking.

In captivity this species is generally aggressive and antisocial and is best housed in pairs unless in a very large area.
Then it may mix with other species, although it will still be feisty at breeding time.

A couple, near Hannover, Germany, Nov. 2009.
Photo: Michael Gäbler

The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means "pied waterfowl", essentially the same as the English "shelduck".
In Tibet and Mongolia, Ruddy Shelduck is considered sacred by the Buddhists. It is also a sacred animal in Slavic mythology.
In Hindi and Urdu (India/Pakistan) it is called Surkhab

South African Shelduck, Cape Shelduck, Tadorna cana, No: Kapprustand
Dutch: Grijskop casarca / Kaapse casarca German: Graukopfkasarka French: Tadorne du Cap / Casarca du Cap

The Cape Shelduck or South African Shelduck, Tadorna cana, is a species of shelduck, a group of large goose-like birds
which are part of the bird family Anatidae, which also includes the swans, geese and ducks. The Anatidae article should
be referred to for an overview of this group of birds.

This is a 64 cm long bird which breeds in southern Africa, mainly in Namibia and South Africa. In the southern winter,
many birds move north-east from the breeding range to favoured moulting grounds, where sizable concentrations occur.

This species is mainly associated with lakes and rivers in fairly open country, breeding in disused mammal holes, usually
those of the Aardvark.

Adult Cape Shelduck have ruddy bodies and wings strikingly marked with black, white and green. The male has a grey
head, and the female has a white face and black crown, nape and neck sides.

The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means "pied waterfowl", essentially the same as the English

Female Cape Duck, Dec. 2006
Photo: Marieke Kuijpers

This species is partially migratory over much of its range with substantial numbers of individuals undertaking seasonal
movements related to the availability of water and moulting. Between November and December adult birds migrate short
distances to congregate in flocks of around 400 to as many as 5,000 on large deep water lakes to undergo a flightless
moulting period.

The species then disperses in single pairs to breed between May and September, although large flocks of non-breeding pairs
and single females may also occur at this time. Outside breeding and moulting seasons the species gathers in smaller flocks
of several hundred birds. The species is both a diurnal and nocturnal feeder.

During the breeding season this species inhabits small, permanent, shallow freshwater and brackish lakes, pools in river courses,
rivers and exposed inland mud flats, in both upland and lowland areas of open country. In the non-breeding season the species
prefers deep freshwater lakes, artificial reservoirs, salt pans, sewage works and shallow brackish pans. It may also be found
away from water in natural grassland, Karoo veld, fynbos, ploughed land, stubble and fields of crops. This species requires
large, deep freshwater lakes, reservoirs and dense swamps on which to undergo a post-breeding wing-moult.
BirdLife International (2010) Species factsheet: Tadorna cana.
Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/11/2010.

Australian Shelduck, Tadorna tadornoides, No: Praktrustand

Australian Shelduck, female. Jan. 2008
Photo: Arpingstone

The Australian Shelduck, Tadorna tadornoides, is a shelduck, a group of large goose-like birds which are part of the bird family
Anatidae, which also includes the swans, geese and ducks. The Anatidae article should be referred to for an overview
of this group of birds.

This is a bird which breeds in southern Australia and Tasmania. In the southern winter, many birds move further north than the
breeding range. As with other shelducks, this species has favoured moulting grounds, such as Lake George, NSW,
where sizeable concentrations occur.

This species is mainly associated with lakes in fairly open country, breeding in tree holes, holes in banks or similar.

Australian Shelduck, male. Jan. 2008
Photo: Martin Pot

The male is largely blackish, with a chestnut breast, white neck collar and dark green head. The female is similar, but has
white around the eye. Both sexes, like most shelducks, show large white wing patches in flight. They are Protected under
the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974.

The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means "pied waterfowl", essentially the same as the English "shelduck".

Australian Shelduck, Tadorna tadornoides. Perth, Australia.
Photo: Ben Eenhoorn

The Australian Shelduck can be found in south western and south eastern parts of Australia. It is a vagrant
(only occasionally seen) north to the Kimberley region of Western Australia and in Central Australia.

The Australian Shelduck prefers fresh waters and if in saltwater habitat, needs to be within easy reach of fresh water.

Size is minimum 56 cm, maximum 72 cm. Average weight: 1500 g. Breeding season: July to December.

© www.arthurgrosset.com

After breeding some migrate long distances to particular large wetlands such as Lake George, Australian Captial Territory,
and the Coorong, South Australia, to moult flight and tail feathers.

The Australian Shelduck grazes on green grass on land or in shallow water. It also eats algae, insects and molluscs.

The nest of the Australian Shelduck is usually in a large tree hollow, well lined with down. They have also been known to
breed in rabbit burrows and in large hollows on cliff faces . Flightless downy young may gather in creches.
Only the female Australian Shelduck incubates the eggs, while the male defends the brood territory.
This species is monogamous and some birds are known to create permanent pair-bonds.

The male is black with a buffy-chestnut breast and a white ring round the neck.
The female is similar but the breast is a richer chestnut and it has a white eye-ring and white at the base of the bill.
In the photo, the female is on the right.
© www.arthurgrosset.com

Did you know?
Unlike other Australian ducks, the Australian Shelduck often flies in long lines or in a 'V' formation


Other names of the Australian shelduck are Chestnut-breasted Shelduck or Mountain Shelduck. The male has a metallic
black head and neck, white ring seperates chestnut breast and mantle; the upper back, scapulars and abdomen are black,
finely lined with buff or white; the tail, lower back and rump are black. Bill, legs and feet are black as well. Females are
often smaller and much duller than males, with white patch around eye and white ring at the base of the bill.

They range south-western and south-eastern Australia, Tasmania, where they live on freshwater and brackish lakes.
In aviculture it is a common species, which breeds in half-buried nestboxes, as the other shelducks do as well.
In the wild they breed from June to September; in captivity from May to July. Adults breed when they are two to three
years old and lay 8 up to 14 eggs, which hatch after 30 days. They can be aggressive during the breeding season
(and even kill other ducks and geese), therefore it would be wise to house pairs seperate from other species.
Text by Dan Cowell at Jan Harteman

Paradise Shelduck, Tadorna variegata, No:Maorirustand,

Female (white head, chestnut body) at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellington, NZ
Photo: Michael Hamilton

The Paradise Shelduck, Tadorna variegata, is a large goose-like duck endemic to New Zealand. They are known to the
Maori as Putangitangi but now commonly referred to as the "Paradise duck", and are prized game birds. Both the male and
female have striking plumage, the male has a black head and barred black body, the female a white head with a chestnut body.

The Paradise Shelducks usually live as pairs, grazing on grass and weeds, and will raid crops, particularly when molting.

Female with six chicks on Opunake Beach, New ZealandParadise Shelducks form long-term pair bonds, often lasting for life,
and defend territories. They have a long breeding season which is between August through December.
They reach sexual maturity after two years, and build nests lined with grass and feathers hidden in high grass, hollow trees
or beneath rotting logs. The mean clutch size is around nine eggs. Chicks fledge after eight weeks.

Male (black head, barred black body) at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellington, NZ
Photo: Michael Hamilton

Before Europeans settled in New Zealand the Maori hunted Paradise Shelducks in favoured districts. Hunting was done outside
the breeding season when the birds were molting and could not fly. During the breeding season hunting them was forbidden.
This conservation and selective hunting system ensured good supplies of food.

Paradise Shelducks were uncommon prior to European settlement, however changes to habitat caused by the conversion
of forest to pasture, and the deliberate provisioning on ponds by hunting groups, has led to a large increase in the numbers
of these ducks.

A mother Paradise Shelduck, took her six small ducklings out
into the shallows of Opunake Beach, New Zealand. Oct. 2008

Photo: Dave Young

Putangitangi, the paradise shelduck, is endemic to New Zealand, that is it is found nowhere else in the world.
It was discovered first by Captain Cook at Dusky Sound in 1773 during his second voyage. Cook called it the Painted
Duck. They were not a common bird before settlement by Europeans but are now one of the endemic birds which has
prospered with the conversion of native forest to pasture. They have increased greatly in numbers through this century
and are now only partially protected.

They mainly graze on grass and weeds, or standing crops of peas or grain which can mean they often get on the wrong
side of farmers, especially when they flock, sometimes in very large numbers, during the moulting season between
December and February.

Most paradise duck start breeding when 2 years old and pairs remain together from year to year, returning to the same
nesting area. If one bird dies, its mate occupies the same territory and re-mates again.

Usually the nest is placed on the ground well hidden beneath a log or clumps of grass, but occasionally it is built in a tree
fifteen to twenty feet above the ground. The nest is made of grass and lined with down plucked from the duck’s own body.

Tadorna cristata, Koreagravand, Crested Shelduck. possibly extinct (late 20th century?)

Artists drawing of Tadorna cristata

The Crested Shelduck or Korean Crested Shelduck, Tadorna cristata, is a species of bird in the family Anatidae.
It is critically endangered and believed by some to be extinct. The male Crested Shelduck has a greenish-black crown,
breast, primaries, and tail, while the rest of its face, chin, and throat are brownish black. The male's belly, undertail coverts,
and flanks are a dark grey with black striations. The upper wing coverts are white, while its speculum is an iridescent green.
The female has a white eye ring, black crest, white face, chin, throat, neck, and uppers wing coverts and a dark brown
body with white striations. Both sexes also have a distinctive green tuft of feathers protruding from the head.

Very little is known about this bird because of the limited number of observations of this species. It apparently bred in
Korea and eastern Russia and was probably a relict species that had a wider distribution in prehistoric times.
Some think that this species is extinct, although occasional sightings are reported, including a number of recent reports
from the interior wetlands of China. Due to the persistent reports of the species' survival, it is listed as critically endangered. However, it has not been definitively sighted since 1964.

The Crested Shelduck is sexually dimorphic, with the male having a greenish-black crown, breast, primaries, and tail,
while the rest of its face, chin, and throat are brownish black. The male's belly, undertail coverts, and flanks are a dark
grey with black striations. The upper wing coverlets are white, while its speculum is an iridescent green.
The female has a white eye ring, black crest, white face, chin, throat, neck, and upper wing coverts. It also has a dark
brown body with white striations. Both sexes have a green tuft of feathers protruding from their head.
The Crested Shelduck is about 63 to 71 centimetres long and slightly larger than a Mallard. Its wingspan is about
31 to 32 centimetres. Its bill and legs are pinkish, though those of the female are paler than those of the male.
The plumage of the immature is unknown.

The Crested Shelduck has been collected near Vladivostok in Russia and near Fusan and Kunsan in Korea.
It has been proposed that the species breeds in far-eastern Russia, northern North Korea, and northeast China and
winters in southern Japan, southwest Korea, and along the east China coast as far south as Shanghai.

This species is believed to live in a wide variety of wetland and deep-water habitats at varying elevations.
While all collected individuals are from the coast, especially near river mouths, recently there have been a number
of reports from interior wetlands in northeastern China. It has been speculated that this species may breed in
mountainous areas either away from water or on volcanic lakes.

Though not much is known about this shelduck, it is believed to be migratory, traveling from Siberia in the breeding
season to Korea, southern Russia, and Japan for the winter. The Crested Shelduck is believed to eat aquatic vegetation,
agricultural crops, algae, invertebrates, mollusks, crustaceans, carrion, and garbage. It has been suggested that this
shelduck may be a nocturnal feeder. While its nest has not been described, similar shelducks nest in burrows and cavities and it has also been suggested that this species may nest in tree cavities. The bird is also suggested to lay less than ten
eggs which the female alone incubates. It is believed to breed from May to July.The shelduck has been observed
in flocks of two to eight birds.

The Crested Shelduck was never numerous in modern times, though it is thought to have been more widespread
historically. The species is known from only a handful of sightings and some declared it extinct in 1916 after a
female was shot at Busan, South Korea. In 1943, a sighting of this bird was reported near Chushinhokudo,
building hopes that the species persisted. A group of three birds was sighted in 1964 in the Rimsky-Korsakov
Archipelago near Vladivostok with a small flock of Harlequin Ducks. In 1971 it was reported from North Korea's
northeast coast and in 1985 two were reported from eastern Russia. However, there are severe doubts about the
accuracy of the 1971 record. A recent survey of Chinese hunters resulted in a number of unconfirmed reports from
northeastern China. There are also unconfirmed reports of about twenty Crested Shelducks in the Dashanbao
region of Yunnan, though many believe this flock to be a misidentified flock of Ruddy Shelducks.
It is believed that, if the species survives, there likely are fewer than 50 individuals.

This species is threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, hunting, and overcollecting. Recently, a Chinese forest
worker claimed that he unknowingly ate two in 1984. In an attempt to gather reports of this species and raise
awareness so that they are not eaten, 300,000 leaflets were distributed in Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, and
North Korea in 1983, with the only resulting report being the 1971 North Korea record. 15,000 leaflets were
distributed in northeastern China in 1985 and 1991. While this garnered 82 reports of the species, follow-up surveys
of the area failed to find the shelduck.

Radjah Shelduck, Tadorna radjah, No:Beltegravand

Radjah Shelduck Tadorna radjah at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, England.
Oct 2004
Photo: Adrian Pingstone

T. r. radjah (Black-backed Shelduck)
T. r. rufitergum (Burdekin Duck)

Radjah Shelduck, Tadorna radjah
Photo by Radomil


The Raja Shelduck or Radjah Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) (in Australia also known as Burdekin Duck) is a species of shelduck.

Both the male and female of the species are mostly white, with dark wingtips and a distinctive "collar" of dark feathers.
Seen from above in flight, the birds have green bands on the tops of their wings. The female has a harsh rattle and the
male has a breathy, sore-throat whistle.

The Rajh Shelduck inhabits the mangrove forests and coastline of New Guinea and Australia. In Australia, its primary
range is coastal tropical northern Australia, from central Queensland through northern Northern Territory
(including Kakadu National Park) to the Kimberley in Western Australia.

The species prefers the brackish waters of mangrove flats and paperbark tree swamps, but will visit freshwater swamps,
lagoons, and billabongs further inland during the wet season.

The Radjah Shelduck forms long-term pair-bonds, and is usually encountered in lone pairs or small flocks.
During the wet season the males commonly become very irritable, and have been observed attacking their mates.

The diet consists mainly of mollusks, insects, sedge materials and algae. Pairs start searching for nesting sites during the
months of January and February. They nest close to their primary food source, often in the hollow limbs of trees,
which makes habitat destruction a particular issue.

Radjah Shelduck does not use nesting materials except for some self-supplied down feathers. Egg-laying is usually done
by May or June, but depends on the extent of the wet season. The clutches range from 6 to 12 eggs. Incubation time is
about 30 days.

The Raja Shelduck is listed as a protected bird in all states of Australia and penalties exist for harming or disturbing them.


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