Ian’s Bird of the Week – Raja (Radjah) Shelduck

Raja Shelduck (Tadorna radjah) by IanNewsletter – 10/28/2009

Raja Shelduck by Ian

Raja Shelduck by Ian

The Radjah Shelduck is a rather handsome duck of coastal tropical Australia. From a distance, the plumage looks black and white, but the dark plumage is actually chestnut. It is often seen feeding by dabbling in shallow water, as in the first photo, working its way around the margins of lagoons and wetlands. Such areas can get very muddy towards the end of the dry season and the white plumage of the birds becomes stained, as in the bird coming in to land in the second photo. In flight the green speculum on the upper surface of the wings is conspicuous as shown in the third photo.

Pair of Raja Shelduck by Ian

Pair of Raja Shelduck by Ian

The range of the Radjah Shelduck currently extends from Broome in the west to Rockhampton in the east, though it is scarce to rare outside the Northern Territory. It also found in New Guinea and eastern Indonesia. It used to occur as far south as northeastern New South Wales. It occurs on both fresh and saltwater,and is usually seen in pairs or small flocks. When resting, it often perches in paperbark trees over water and it nests in tree hollows.

I’m progressively adding photos from the northern trip to the website. Recent additions include:

Brahminy Kite
Azure Kingfisher
Crimson Finch
Rufous-banded Honeyeater
and Silver-crowned, Helmeted and Little Friarbirds

Best wishes,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:


The latest I.O.C. list of bird names lists the Radjah as Raja Shelduck. They keep changing things and it is hard to keep up with them. At least the left the “Shelduck” part alone.

The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means “pied waterfowl”, essentially the same as the English “shelduck”.

Raja Shelduck showing collar by Ian

Raja Shelduck showing collar by Ian

Both the male and female of the species are mostly white, with dark wingtips and a distinctive “collar” of dark feathers. Seen from above in flight, the birds have green bands on the tops of their wings. The female has a harsh rattle and the male has a breathy, sore-throat whistle.

The species prefers the brackish waters of mangrove flats and paperbark tree swamps, but will visit freshwater swamps, lagoons, and billabongs further inland during the wet season.

The Raja Shelduck forms long-term pair-bonds, and is usually encountered in lone pairs or small flocks. During the wet season the males commonly become very irritable, and have been observed attacking their mates.

The diet consists mainly of mollusks, insects, sedge materials and algae. Pairs start searching for nesting sites during the months of January and February. They nest close to their primary food source, often in the hollow limbs of trees, which makes habitat destruction a particular issue.

Raja Shelduck does not use nesting materials except for some self-supplied down feathers. Egg-laying is usually done by May or June, but depends on the extent of the wet season. The clutches range from 6 to 12 eggs. Incubation time is about 30 days.

The Raja Shelduck is listed as a protected bird in all states of Australia and penalties exist for harming or disturbing them.

I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine. (Psalms 50:11 NASB)

Information from Wikipedia with editing.

To see more of these Birds of the Week

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