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 coloured in the breeding season, his bill bright red and bearing a prominent knob at the forehead.