Key facts

Scientific name: Tadorna tadorna

Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 15,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 61,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 61 – 63 cm

Wingspan: 110 – 133 cm

Weight: 850 – 1500 g


Shelducks are large birds with white plumage, a dark green head and neck, chestnut-brown belly and a red bill.

Both sexes look alike except the male has a knob on top of its bill during the summer.

Juvenile shelducks look similar to adults except their colouration is duller.


 Shelducks are monogamous and will mate for life. They are sociable birds and will live in large flocks leaving their young chicks in crèches with just one of two adults.

Shelducks build their nests from grass and moss and lined with down in caves, tree holes or abandoned rabbit burrows. Breeding starts in May when they will lay 7-12 creamy white eggs which are incubated for 30 days.

Shelducks can fly 6-8 weeks after hatching and shortly after will leave the nest.


Shelducks eat small invertebrates including insects, molluscs and crustaceans.

They forage in shallow water by upending and dabbling.


Where to see them

Shelducks are common around the coastline although they can also be found in inland waters.

They can be seen at any time of year with the population growing to more than 81,000 during the winter.


Louis A. Hansen/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Young shelducks will dive under water to avoid predators while the adults will fly away from them to act as a decoy.

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