Australian Shelduck

Quick Facts

Length: 64 cm
Height: -
Weight: 1 500 grams
Colour: Black, green tinges, white neck ring, cinnamon breast
Habitat: Prefers fresh water. It can be found in some saltwater habitatts - but must have fresh water easily
Food: Green grass in shallow water or land, algae, insects and molluscs
Predators: -
Status: -
Australian Shelduck
Australian Shelduck
Australian Shelduck

The Australian Shelduck is a large, brightly coloured duck with a small head and bill. The male head and neck are black, tinged green, with a white neck ring and occasionally a white ring around the base of the bill. The upper parts are mainly black, while the underparts are dark brown with a cinnamon breast. White upperwing coverts form a white shoulder patch. The wings are black and deep chestnut with a large green speculum (window in wing). The female has a white eye-ring and a chestnut breast. This species is also known as the Chestnut-breasted Shelduck, Mountain Duck and Sheldrake.

Australian Shelducks are usually unmistakable, with the upright stance and dark head contrasting with the white neck ring.

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.

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.

Unlike other Australian ducks, the Australian Shelduck often flies in long lines or in a 'V' formation.

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 clearing and conversion of some areas to cropland and pasture has led to an increase in some local populations of the Australian Shelduck. Breeding territories are often established around farm dams.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Wednesday 17th July, 2013


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