The Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) is a large waterbird found across Europe, North Africa, and western Asia. This species is easily identifiable by its striking black and white plumage and chestnut-brown breast band. The male and female are similar in appearance, although males are slightly larger. They measure between 22-26 inches in length and have a wingspan of 47-54 inches. Their weight ranges from 2.6-4.4 pounds.
One of the distinguishing field marks of the Common Shelduck is its distinctive coloration. They have a black head and neck, white collar, and black back, while their wings are white with black secondary feathers. The chestnut-brown breast band stands out prominently against their white belly. Juvenile shelducks are duller in coloration and have a spotted breast. During flight, they display a distinctive profile with their long neck and bill stretched out straight.
Common Shelducks are partially migratory, with populations in northern and eastern Europe migrating to warmer climates in the winter. In the UK, they are resident breeders and winter visitors. In North Africa and western Asia, they are mainly non-breeding winter visitors. They prefer coastal habitats such as estuaries, lagoons, and salt marshes, although they can also be found in inland areas such as lakes and rivers.
The Common Shelduck is a highly vocal species, with a variety of calls used for communication. They are also known for their distinctive head-bobbing behavior, which is thought to be a form of communication between individuals. Shelducks are omnivores, feeding on a range of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and plant material. They often forage by upending in the water and dabbling with their bill.
In terms of conservation, the Common Shelduck is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN. However, some populations have declined due to habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting their coastal habitats and raising awareness of the importance of these areas for both shelducks and other wildlife.