Australian Shelduck Australian Shelduck
Australian Shelduck

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Australian shelduck, Chestnut-breasted shelduck
Genus Species
Tadorna (a sheldrake) tadornoides

Fast Facts

The 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 are 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 the eye and base of bill.
Approximately 55 to 73 cm (22 to 29 in.)
Approximatley 1.3 to 1.5 kg (2.9 to 3.3 lbs.)
Includes insects, seeds, and short grasses
28 days
Clutch Size
7 to 8 eggs
Fledging Duration
70 days
Sexual Maturity
2 to 3 years
Life Span
10 to 15 years
This species has a very large range and can be found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
Inhabit freshwater swamps, brackish swamps, inland lakes, grasslands, open woodlands, pastures, and agricultural fields
The total population is unknown but scientists believe there are at least 10,000 mature individuals. The population appears to be increasing and is not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS:  Not listed

Fun Facts

In the wild, these ducks may use holes and burrows created by other animals to build their nest.

Within days of hatching, the young are led to their nursery water by both parents or sometimes by other adults. This distance can be a mile or more! There are several young from other parents together under the care of one or more adults. The nursery group varies in size and age range but usually includes 20 to 40 individuals. Scientists believe the nursery supervisors are failed breeders or non-breeders.

Australian 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 honks, grunts, and whistles.

Ecology and Conservation

The Australian Shelduck is not a popular game bird so it has not been significantly overhunted. They may be hunting occasionally due to their habit of grazing in agricultural fields and causing damage to crops.

Scientists believe their populations may have grown in recent years due to the increase in agricultural irrigation and the construction of new water impoundments, which provide more food and habitat for these ducks.


Johnsgard, P. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World. Lincoln. Univ. Of Neb. Press, 1978.

Pizzey, G. and R. Doyle. Birds of Australia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 1980.

Scott, P. A Coloured Key of the Wildfowl of the World. Slimbridge, England. The Wildfowl Trust. 1988.

Todd, F.S. Natural History of Waterfowl. San Diego, Ca. Ibis Publishing Co., 1996.

BirdLife International. 2016. Tadorna tadornoides. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22680011A92838835. Downloaded on 03 December 2018.

Photo Credit: Australian_Shelduck_(5370526181).jpg. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image by: Tony Hisgett. Year Created: 19 January 2011. Website: License: CC by SA 2.0.