STATUS IN THE WILD: Least Concern
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
The Australian shelduck’s head, back, belly and tail are all black with green highlights. The white band around the neck separates the black head and brown breast feathers. The female has white around the bill and the eyes, while breast feathers are a medium brown. The male has a light orange-brown coloration on the breast feathers and is also typically larger than the female. Both have white primary flight feathers.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Shelducks are not known to be diving birds; however, young ducklings will dive readily and adults only do so if frightened or wounded. These birds are very vocal, especially when in flight. They communicate using goose-like honks, grunts and whistles. Females have a higher pitch than the males.
The Australian shelducks use swamps and inland lakes for breeding where they will make a nest in a tree or dig holes in the banks. The ducks will pair bond, and the male will assist in caring for the young. When a suitable cavity is found, the female will lay five to fourteen cream-colored eggs and incubate them for thirty to thirty-three days. During this time the male will defend the surrounding territory. A few days after hatching, the ducklings are lead to the water by both parents and cared for about a mile away from the nesting site. Other shelducks without young will assist in caring for the ducklings, which can create a “nursing” group from twenty to forty individuals. Once the young fledge, they are completely independent.
The Australian shelduck is found in two distinct populations in Australia. The larger eastern population is centered in the province of Victoria, extending north into New South Wales and south onto the island of Tasmania. They generally inhabit grasslands, open woodlands, and pastures and will feed in agricultural fields.
The Australian shelduck’s primary habitats are lakes in fairly open country with trees close by.
They feed on insects, seeds, and short grasses.