Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) by Ian 1
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Paradise Shelduck ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 1/16/12
Shelducks are all rather splendid, so this one has to be particularly fine to earn the moniker ‘Paradise’. Interestingly, it is the white-headed female that is, I think, the more striking as in the first photo of a female having a drink (of salt water!) at Milford Sound.
Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) by Ian 2
The second photo shows the same bird stretching her wing to show us the gorgeous emerald green secondary flight feathers. Like all Shelducks, these are large ducks, averaging 63cm/25in in length and the males, averaging 1,700g/3.7lbs, are larger than the females, 1,400g/3.1lbs.
Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) by Ian 3
Meanwhile her mate, who has a dark brown head and finely patterned wing coverts, decides it’s time to go for a swim.
The males have the same black, emerald green and white wing pattern as the female as shown by this male flying along a river in the Waitaki Valley.
Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) by Ian 4
Unlike most other avian species where the female is more colourful, such as Buttonquails and Cassowaries, here there is no switching of gender roles: the female incubates the eggs while the male vigorously defends the territory from predators. Paradise Shelducks maintain pair bonds from one year to the next returning to the same territory. They are partial to both high country riverbeds and farmland and the population has benefitted from the clearing of land for pasture since European settlement.
The Paradise Shelduck is a New Zealand endemic, though a flock of 5 spent arrived on Lord Howe Island in March 1950 and remained for over a month so it is included in the official Australian list.