The Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) is a widespread and common duck of the Genus Tadorna. Fossil bones from Dorkovo (Bulgaria) described as Balcanas pliocaenica may actually belong to this species. More likely, they are an extinct species of Tadorna (if not a distinct genus) due to their Early Pliocene age; the present species is not unequivocally attested from the fossil record until some 2-3 million years later (Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene.
Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means "pied waterfowl", essentially the same as the English "shelduck".
The gooselike Common Shelduck is a striking bird with its red bill, white and chestnut body, dark green head and neck. Sexes are similar, but the female is duller. The male has a swollen red bill knob in the breeding season.
The call is a loud honk.
Distribution and habitat
This is a bird which breeds in temperate Eurasia. Most populations migrate to subtropical areas in winter, but this species is largely resident in westernmost Europe, apart from movements to favoured moulting grounds, such as the Wadden Sea on the north German coast.
The Common Shelduck is common around the coastline of Great Britain (where it is simply known as Shelduck), where it frequents salt marshes and estuaries.
Moulting flocks can be very large (100,000 on the Wadden Sea), since most pairs leave their partially grown young in a crèche with just one or two adults.
This species is mainly associated with lakes and rivers in open country, breeding in rabbit burrows, tree holes, haystacks or similar. In winter it is common on suitable estuaries and tidal mudflats as well.
This bird is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The young will dive under water to avoid predators and the adults will fly away from them to act as a decoy.