The Cape Shelducks or South African Shelduck, Tadorna cana, is a species of shelduck, a group of large goose-like birds which are part of the bird family Anatidae, which also includes the swans, geese and ducks. The Anatidae article should be referred to for an overview of this group of birds.
The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means “pied waterfowl”, essentially the same as the English “shelduck”.
Distribution / Habitat
This is a 64 cm long bird which breeds in southern Africa, mainly in Namibia and South Africa. In the southern winter, many birds move north-east from the breeding range to favoured moulting grounds, where sizable concentrations occur.
This species is mainly associated with lakes and rivers in fairly open country, breeding in disused mammal holes, usually those of the Aardvark.
Adult Cape Shelducks have ruddy bodies and wings strikingly marked with black, white and green. The male has a grey head, and the female has a white face and black crown, nape and neck sides.
Cape Shelducks is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Diet / Feeding:
Cape Shelducks feed on larvae and pupae usually found under rocks, aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails, and crabs.
Instead of “teeth,” ducks have serrations (saw-like edges) on their bills that allow them to filter food out of the water.
Captive birds are often fed commercially prepared duck food pellets – if there are insufficient natural resources available to sustain them. As they feed on insects, they are very useful in ridding gardens or lawns of harmful bugs.
Feeding Ducks …
We all enjoy ducks and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around – and it works! Who doesn’t like an easy meal!
However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird – so it’s best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.
- Foods that can be fed to Ducks, Geese and Swans to survive cold winters and remain healthy when food is scarce in their environment.
Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves – providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.
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