Common Shelduck

Last updated on November 17th, 2023 at 07:02 pm

The Common Shelduck is a cave-dwelling species that preferably nests in rabbit burrows. It is the largest surface duck in France. The male has a greenish-black head, a red beak with a wattle of the same color, a reddish pectoral band from which a dark ventral stripe starts, white wings with black scapulars and primaries marked with a green speculum and the rest of the white body. The female is duller and has no wattle on the beak, often more marked with black. Adults of both sexes show pink legs.

Common Shelduck
Scientific name : Tadorna tadorna
Family : Anatidae
Long. de 52 à 67 cm, Env. de 110 à 133 cm
Weight : 900 à 1.400 gr


They are powerful birds with rapid wing beats. They fly with their necks outstretched. On land, they walk quickly thanks to their long legs.


This bird inhabits coastal (estuaries, mudflats, brackish or salt lakes) and continental wetlands. The Belon’s Shelduck can be found along the coast where it mainly frequents flat, sandy or muddy sea coasts. In France, it is found in Picardy, Normandy, Brittany but also in Aquitaine and Camargue.

Regime – Diet

The Common Shelduck feeds on the surface, mainly bivalve molluscs, marine gastropods and crustaceans. It finds these by sifting through the silt and swinging its beak sideways. It also feeds on the water using different techniques: on foot in puddles and in shallow water, by swimming or by tilting the tail in the air in deep water.


The Common Shelduck is a monogamous species, with high interannual fidelity to mate. Its nest is installed in an old rabbit or fox burrow. The female lays in two weeks from eight to ten eggs whose incubation lasts from 29 to 31 days. She alone incubates the eggs for about 30 days. Ducklings are precocial. The parents lead these to the water just after hatching.

They immediately start diving in search of food. They fledge after 45-50 days.


The Common Shelduck is present in France all year round.


The world population is between 580,000 and 710,000 individuals. This is distributed between Europe, North Africa and Asia. No particular threat to this species. Protected species however (article 1 and 5 of the amended decree of 04/17/81), listed in Appendix II of the Bern Convention and Appendix II of the Bonn Convention.


The Common Shelduck is a relatively silent bird outside the breeding season. The vocalizations produced during the nesting period consist of rapid quacking relatively quiet for the female, and a kind of whistle for the male.

Other Links

  • You can see the article from my site “Birds of Camargue” for more information on the Camargue and the Birds.

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