South African Shelduck – Profile | Traits | Facts | Diet | Breeding

South African shelduck

The South African shelduck or Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana is a species of shelduck, a bunch of huge goose-like birds that are a part of the bird family Anatidae, which additionally consists of the swans, geese and geese. This is a common species native to southern Africa.


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

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana

South African shelduck Description

Adult South African shelducks have ruddy bodies and wings strikingly marked with black, white and green. The male has a grey head, and the feminine has a white face and black crown, nape and neck sides.

Note the colour of the females head is extremely variable. In-flight they are often exhausting to differentiate from Egyptian geese. Juveniles are duller in look.

Young females lack the white on the head, excluding white eye circles. Males make a deep honk or hoogh call whereas the feminine tends to supply a louder, sharper hark.


This species is principally related to lakes and rivers in the pretty open nation, breeding in disused mammal holes, normally these of the aardvark. Pairs are usually very nomadic when not in the breeding season.

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana

South African shelduck Facts

In the wild, these geese might use holes and burrows made by different animals to construct their nest.

Within days of hatching, the younger are led from the nest to what discipline scientists call ‘nursery water’ by each parent or generally by different adults.

This distance could be a mile or more. In the nursery, there are a number of younger from different shelducks collectively under the care of 1 or more adults.

The nursery group (or crèche) varies in size and age range (a standard size crèche is 20 to 40 people, however, some teams of 100 have been recorded).

Shelducks are usually not diving birds, however, they’re able to dive if wanted. The younger ducklings dive freely however the adults solely achieve this when wounded or frightened.

The species is each a diurnal and nocturnal feeder

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana

South African shelduck Feeding

Ducks eat quite a lot of meals sources similar to grasses, aquatic vegetation, fish, bugs, small amphibians, worms, and small molluscs.

Dabbling geese feed on the floor of water or on land, or as deep as they will attain by up-ending without utterly submerging.[5] Along the sting of the beak, there’s a comb-like construction referred to as a pecten.

This strains the water squirting from the side of the beak and traps any meals. The pecten can be used to preen feathers and to carry slippery meals gadgets.

Diving geese and sea geese forage deep underwater. To have the ability to submerge more simply, the diving geese are heavier than dabbling geese, and subsequently have more problem taking off to fly.

Just a few specialised species such because the mergansers are tailored to catch and swallow giant fish.

The others have the characteristic broad flat beak tailored to dredging-type jobs similar to pulling up waterweed, pulling worms and small molluscs out of mud, trying to find insect larvae, and bulk jobs similar to dredging out, holding, turning head first, and swallowing a squirming frog.

To keep away from damage when digging into sediment it has no cere, however, the nostrils come out by exhausting horn.

The Guardian (British newspaper) printed an article advising that geese shouldn’t be fed with bread as a result it damages the health of the geese and pollutes waterways.

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana

South African shelduck Communication

Female geese (in addition to a number of different species within the genus Anas, such because the American and Pacific black geese, spot-billed duck, northern pintail and common teal) make the traditional “quack” sound whereas males make an identical however raspier sound that’s generally written as “breeeeze”, however, regardless of widespread misconceptions, most species of duck don’t “quack”.

In normal, geese make a large range of calls, starting from whistles, cooing, yodels and grunts. For instance, the scaup – that are diving geese – make a noise like “scaup” (therefore their name). Calls could also be loud displaying calls or quieter contact calls.

A common city legend claims that duck quacks don’t echo; nevertheless, this has been confirmed to be false.

This delusion was first debunked by the Acoustics Research Centre at the University of Salford in 2003 as a part of the British Association’s Festival of Science.

South African shelduck was additionally debunked in one of many earlier episodes of the popular Discovery Channel tv present MythBusters.

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana

South African shelduck Predators

South African shelduck has many predators. Ducklings are significantly susceptible, since their incapacity to fly makes them easy prey not just for predatory birds but in addition for giant fish like pike, crocodilians, predatory testudines such because the Alligator snapping turtle, and different aquatic hunters, together with fish-eating birds similar to herons.

Ducks’ nests are raided by land-based predators, and brooding females could also be caught unaware on the nest by mammals, similar to foxes, or giant birds, similar to hawks or owls.

Adult geese are quick fliers, however could also be caught on the water by giant aquatic predators together with huge fish such because the North American muskie and the European pike.

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana

In-flight, geese are secure from all however a couple of predators similar to people and the peregrine falcon, which commonly makes use of its pace and power to catch geese.

South African shelduck Breeding

South African shelduck typically solely has one partner at a time, though the partnership normally solely lasts one year. Larger species and the more sedentary species (like fast-river specialists) are inclined to have pair-bonds that final quite a few years.

Most duck species breed as soon as a year, selecting to take action in beneficial circumstances (spring/summer season or moist seasons). Ducks additionally are inclined to make a nest before breeding, and, after hatching, lead their ducklings to water.

Mother geese are very caring and protecting of their younger, however, might abandon a few of their ducklings if they’re bodily caught in an area they can’t get out of (similar to nesting in an enclosed courtyard) or are usually not prospering as a result of genetic defects or illness led to by hypothermia, hunger, or illness.

Ducklings may also be orphaned by inconsistent late hatching the place a couple of eggs hatch after the mom has deserted the nest and led her ducklings to water. Most home geese neglect their eggs and ducklings, and their eggs have to be hatched under a broody hen or artificially.

South African shelduck, Cape shelduck, scientific name Tadorna cana


Cape shelducks might use the burrows of black-backed jackals could also be in peril themselves due to declining jackal populations.

These geese might also nest on the slope close to an abandoned Aardvark or Porcupine burrow.

Water recreation and different human activities might pose a menace to this species by disturbance.

The Cape shelduck is hunted primarily for sport, however, there isn’t proof that this at present poses a menace.


South African shelduck is, without doubt, one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means “pied waterfowl”, primarily the same because of the English “shelduck”.

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