Australian Shelduck

Did you know?

Unlike other Australian ducks, the Australian Shelduck often flies in long lines or in a 'V' formation.

A loud honking, deeper and more grunted from the male, higher and more resonant from the female, 'ong ank, ong ank'.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Average weight: 
1 500g
Breeding season: 
July to December
Clutch Size: 
10 to 14 eggs
33 days
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Australian Shelduck is a large, brightly coloured duck with a small head and bill. The male head and neck are black, tinged green, with a white neck ring and occasionally a white ring around the base of the bill. The upper parts are mainly black, while the underparts are dark brown with a cinnamon breast. White upperwing coverts form a white shoulder patch. The wings are black and deep chestnut with a large green speculum (window in wing). The female has a white eye-ring and a chestnut breast. This species is also known as the Chestnut-breasted Shelduck, Mountain Duck and Sheldrake.

Similar species: 

Australian Shelducks are usually unmistakable, with the upright stance and dark head contrasting with the white neck ring.

Where does it live?

The Australian Shelduck can be found in south western and south eastern parts of Australia. It is a vagrant (only occasionally seen) north to the Kimberley region of Western Australia and in Central Australia.


The Australian Shelduck prefers fresh waters and if in saltwater habitat, needs to be within easy reach of fresh water.

Seasonal movements: 

After breeding some migrate long distances to particular large wetlands such as Lake George, Australian Captial Territory, and the Coorong, South Australia, to moult flight and tail feathers.

What does it do?

The Australian Shelduck grazes on green grass on land or in shallow water. It also eats algae, insects and molluscs.


The nest of the Australian Shelduck is usually in a large tree hollow, well lined with down. They have also been known to breed in rabbit burrows and in large hollows on cliff faces . Flightless downy young may gather in creches. Only the female Australian Shelduck incubates the eggs, while the male defends the brood territory. This species is monogamous and some birds are known to create permanent pair-bonds.

Living with us

The clearing and conversion of some areas to cropland and pasture has led to an increase in some local populations of the Australian Shelduck. Breeding territories are often established around farm dams.

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