The common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) is a waterfowl species shelduck genus Tadorna. It is widespread and common in Eurasia, mainly breeding in temperate and wintering in subtropical regions; in winter, it can also be found in the Maghreb. Its scientific name comes from Celtic roots and means “pied waterfowl”, essentially the same as the English “shelduck”.
Fossil bones from Dorkovo (Bulgaria) described as Balcanas pliocaenica may actually belong to this species. More likely, they are an extinct species of Tadorna (if not a distinct genus) due to their Early Pliocene age; the present species is not unequivocally attested from the fossil record until some 2-3 million years later (Late Pliocene/Early Pleistocene).
Adult flying over the German Wadden Sea; note white underwings
The common shelduck resembles a small short-necked goose in size and shape. It is a striking bird, with a reddish-pink bill, pink feet, a white body with chestnut patches and a black belly, and a dark green head and neck. The wing coverts are white, the primary remiges black, and the secondaries green (only showing in flight) and chestnut. The underwings are almost entirely white. Sexes are similar, but the female is smaller, with some white facial markings, while the male is particularly crisply colored in the breeding season, his bill bright red and bearing a prominent knob at the forehead.
Ducklings are white, with black cap, hindneck and wing and back patches. Juveniles are similarly colored, greyish above and mostly white below, but already have the adult’s wing pattern.
The call is a loud honk.