Cape Shelducks Tadorna cana or South African Shelducks are native birds to Southern Africa. These are stocky, smart, and hardy-looking fowl, in ruddy shades of rust-brown with green, white, and black accents. They have black bills and feet. Males have gray-lavender-colored heads. With their white faces, female Cape Shelducks could be considered showier than the males! The amount of white on the face of the females varies between individuals.
Range: The range of the Cape Shelduck covers most of the country of South Africa as well as the West Coast of Africa into Namibia. Like many wild ducks and geese, Cape Shelducks usually winter in large groups and then disperse into more solitary pairs during the breeding season. These birds are partially migratory and will make large moves not only according to the season but also in response to weather and food resources.
Habitat: During the breeding season, Cape Shelducks inhabit a variety of bodies of water, with exposed muddy shorelines and grassy vegetation around the water's perimeter. They prefer to nest in holes made by mammals, such as aardvarks, along the shoreline. When not breeding, the large groups of Shelducks prefer deeper and larger bodies of water, especially when molting, as they lose their flying ability at that time.
Status in the Wild: The Cape Shelduck population in their native territory is very strong, and their conservation status is currently listed as being of Least Concern.
Status in Aviculture: Cape Shelducks are well-loved by waterfowl collectors around the globe.
Breeding: Cape Shelducks start breeding at 2 or 3 years of age. Within abandoned mammal holes, they create a nest lined with feathers, grasses, and other dried vegetation. Clutch size is usually 7-15 eggs and are incubated by the female for 30 days. Within 24-36 hours of hatching, the young leave the nest and with their parents guiding them, make their way to what is referred to as the nursery water. Many sets of young Cape Shelduck siblings of different ages are guided into the nursery water area where they are watched over by one or two adults assigned to the job, usually adults that did not breed themselves that year. Sometimes there can be 100 shelducklings in a single nursery group.
Lifespan: Cape Shelducks usually have a lifespan of between 10 and 20 years old.
Size: Cape Shelducks measure about 15-24 inches in length and usually weigh between 2.5 and 4.5 pounds; males are about 25% larger than females.
Housing Requirements: Any housing appropriate for large ducks or geese will be fine for Cape Shelducks. If keeping them in an aviary or enclosure, they should have at least 10 x 16 feet per bird. A body of water is necessary for Shelducks as it is for any waterfowl. If not pinioned, Cape Shelducks can fly most of the year, so plan for a way to keep them from flying away. Be certain that your enclosure is safe from the predators in your area.
Diet: The diet of Shelducks tends to change with the season. In breeding season, they eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but during the non-breeding season, they are much more omnivorous, dining on insects, larvae, crustaceans, etc. The diet of birds in captivity should mimic this pattern as much as possible. Supplement a quality commercial waterfowl feed with vegetable matter as well as insects, worms, etc. Cape Shelducks are good at foraging and are useful at ridding gardens and lawns of insects.
Miscellaneous Notes: Shelduck is the name given to a group of waterfowl that seem to be somewhere between a duck and a goose. They are usually larger than most ducks and are also usually quite terrestrial, being comfortable on land, and getting along quite well taking advantage of food sources on the shore as well as in the water. Males are sometimes referred to as Sheldrakes.