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The Australian shelduck's head, back, belly, and tail are all black with metallic green highlights. A narrow, white neckband separates the black head from brown breast. The female breast feathers are chestnut and the male's a paler cinnamon. The wings have black primaries, metallic green secondaries, chestnut tertials and white upper and under wing coverts. Females have rings of white feathers around eye and base of bill.
Approximately 55-73 cm tall
Approximatley 1.3-1.5 kg
Includes insects, seeds, and short grasses
New South Wales and Tasmania
Inhabit freshwater swamps, brackish swamps, inland lakes, grasslands, open woodlands, pastures, and agricultural fields
In the wild, these ducks may use holes and burrows made by other animals to build their nest.
Within days of hatching, the young are led from the nest to, what field scientists call, "nursery water" by both parents or sometimes by other adults to the nursery water. This distance can be a mile or more! In the nursery there are several young from other parents together under the care of one or more adults. The nursery group (or crèche) varies in size and age range (a normal size crèche is 20-40 individuals, but some groups of 100 have been recorded). Scientists believe the nursery supervisors are failed breeders or non-breeders.
Shelducks are not diving birds, but they are able to dive if needed. The young ducklings dive freely but the adults only do so when wounded or frightened.
These ducks communicate using goose like honks, grunts, and whistles.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
The Australian shelduck is not a popular game bird so it has not been significantly over-hunted. What little hunting there is stems from their habit of grazing in agricultural fields, causing damage to crops.
Scientists believe their populations may have grown in recent years due to the increase of irrigation in agriculture and the construction of new water impoundments, which both provide more food and more habitat for this specific species.
Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World
. Lincoln. Univ. Of Neb. Press, 1978.
Pizzey, G. and R. Doyle. 1980.
Birds of Australia
. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
A Coloured Key of the Wildfowl of the World
. Slimbridge, England. The Wildfowl Trust. 1988.
Natural History of Waterfowl
. San Diego, Ca. Ibis Publishing Co., 1996.