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The brightly coloured shelduck, Tadorna tadorna, has a distinctive blood-red bill. Unlike most ducks, the male and female have the same bright colouring. Slightly larger than a mallard, they are often seen sitting on the water or waddling around in a saltmarsh.  

They used to breed on the Solent coast in large numbers but now only a few are seen here in the summer. Many more migrate here for the winter from other parts of Europe.


How to spot them

From a distance this large duck may look black and white, but closer up it has many colours. They are usually only seen in small numbers and often within groups of other ducks. They feed by sweeping their bill from side to side to sift food out of the mud or by upending in the water to reach submerged vegetation. 

It can be confused with the shoveler at first glance. On closer inspection the colour markings are different. The shoveler has a wide black bill whereas the shelduck has a red one.

Where to see them

Saltmarshes around the New Forest coast are good places to see shelduck.

Conservation status

The shelduck is amber listed in the UK . These shy birds are sensitive to disturbance from human activity on the coast. Their habitat is under threat from port and marina developments.

Did you know?

Shelduck frequently nest underground in burrows. The young are often herded into nursery groups and are looked after by other shelduck without chicks (known as aunties) while the parents begin their migration.

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