The shelduck and sheldgeese are half geese and half ducks. There are 14 species and some are found everywhere except North America. The Shelduck is coastal in Western Europe but inland along mid- Asia from Turkey through to China.
They are very handsome birds with a red bill (and knob), dark green head, upper neck and flashes on the wings with bright chestnut breast-band and undertail - otherwise it is white. The birds mainly live in the winter on mudflats but the birds sometimes breed well inland. The nests are usually in rabbit burrows or some such protected site and the ducklings often come together into creches with several dozen looked after by 'aunties'.
Many of the other adults have a moult migration and the biggest destination is in the area of the Eastern Waddensee (Germany) where 100,00 may congregate. Well over 10,000 pairs breed in Britain and inland breeding is rapidly expanding.
Big duck or small goose - who knows?
The following Bird On! pictures are available:
Length 620 mm Closed wing 315 mm Weight 1100 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead