Ruddy Shelduck

The Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae and the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae.

There are very small resident populations of this species in north west Africa and Ethiopia, but the main breeding range of this species is from south east Europe across central Asia to southeast China. These birds are mostly migratory, spending their winters in southern Asia.

Even though it has become quite rare in southeast Europe and southern Spain, the Ruddy Shelduck is still common across much of its Asian range. It’s possible that this population has given rise to vagrants as far west as Iceland and Great Britain. However, since the European population is declining, it is likely that most occurrences in western Europe in recent decades are escapees or feral birds. Although this bird is observed in the wild from time to time in eastern North America, no evidence of a genuine vagrant has been found.

This bird prefers open country, and it will breed in burrows, tree holes or crevices as long as they are distant from water. The female lays 6-16 creamy-white eggs that she incubates for 30 days. The Ruddy Shelduck is usually found in pairs or small groups and rarely forms large flocks. However, molting and winter gatherings on chosen lakes or slow rivers can be very large.

The Ruddy Shelduck is a unique species measuring 58-70 cm in length and with a 110-135 cm wingspan. Its body plumage is orange-brown in color and its head is slightly paler. The wings are white with black flight feathers. It swims well, but in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck. The sexes of this striking species are similar, but the male has a black ring at the bottom of the neck during the breeding season, and the female often has a white face patch. The call is a loud wild honking.

In captivity this species is generally aggressive and antisocial and is best housed in pairs unless in a very large area. Then it may mix with other species, although it will still be feisty at breeding time.

In Tibet and Mongolia, Ruddy Shelduck is considered sacred by the Buddhists. It is also a sacred animal in Slavic mythology.