Paradise Shelduck


Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata)

The Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) is a shelduck from the family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans (Anatidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
English name:
Paradise Shelduck - New Zealand Shelduck
German name:
French name:
Tadorne de paradis
Scientific name:
Tadorna variegata

Scientific classification




Head and neck black, glossed green. Nearly all uderparts and upperparts sooty-black, breast, flanks and upper belly with fine grey vermiculations, mantle and scapulars finely vermiculated brown. Lower belly and undertail converts' rich chestnut; rump, uppertail-converts and tail black.Primary and secondary flight feathers are black, with green mirror on seconderies. On the underwing, the flight feathers are black, contrasting with the white coverts. Bill feet and legs dark Grey.

Head and neck pure white. Almost all the body dark reddish chestnut, with fine blackish vermiculations on mantle. Lower belly and undertail converts rich chestnut; rump, uppertail-converts and tail black. Primary and secondary flight feathers are black, with green mirror on seconderies. On the underwing, the flight feathers are black, contrasting with the white coverts.Bill feet and legs dark Grey.

Much duller and Browner, including on head; lacks green speculum, and feathers of white forewing washed rufous -brown. Gain near adult plumage after first year.

Standard Measurements

Body Length (cm):
The male (drake) of the Paradise Shelduck measures approximately 61-66 centimeters. The female measures approximately 61-66 centimeters.
Body Weight (grams):
The male will weight about 1405-1680 gram. The female will weight about 1405-1680 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

All Shelducks are reasonably hardy, but shelter should be available in winter. Enclosure should contain grass for grazing; generally peaceable and may be kept in mixed collections with e.g. Anser spp. and large ducks; some individuals are seasonally aggressive and may require a separate enclosure. In general younger birds (less than three years old) may be less aggressive than older birds. In addition to grass, feeding with e.g. wheat and pellets suggested, also earthworms, insects and extra green food for breeding, with duckweed particularly for ducklings.

They tend to be aggressive particularly in the breeding season, and may even kill small ducks, and a separate enclosure is usually required. There is some species-based and individual variation in degree of aggression.

Most species prefer to use a partially-buried nest box with a tunnel entrance, usually in the form of a drain pipe. A suggested nest box size is 30x30x40cm, with a 15cm diameter entrance tunnel drain pipe, or 15x15cm square entrance tunnel, minimum 30cm long. Ground-level nest boxes with a 15cm diameter entrance hole may also be used.

Not always easy to breed. Ground-buried nest boxes, and buried or vegetation-hidden hollow logs and drainpipes should be provided for breeding, unless hollow trees or rabbit burrows are available. Laying may begin in February, usually lay March to May. Duckweed and rearing diet, plus small grains later, are useful for rearing ducklings. Artificial, broody and parent incubation and rearing may be used successfully. Care should be taken to avoid imprinting, which may lead to males aggressive to humans and females attracted to people.

Hybrids reported with Common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)Ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)South African shelduck (Tadorna cana)Ashy-headed goose (Chloephaga poliocephala)Bar-headed goose (Anser indicus) and domestic duck.

The female Paradise Shelduck usually lays from 7-10 creamy white eggs and incubates them for 28-31 days.

Artificial incubating:

The ideal relative humidity for incubating most waterfowl eggs is 55% (ground nesters) and 40% (cavity nesters). The temperature is usually 37.4°C. Set ventilation as recommended by the incubator manufacturer. Eggs must be turned, either automatically or by hand, a minimum of 4 times a day. As the duckling develops there is a loss of water from the egg and the air sac gets bigger. In normal development of an egg with a 28-31 days incubation, the air sac occupies about a third of it three days earlier. Cleanliness is vital and ideally eggs should be moved to a separate hatcher at this point, where the humidity should be increased to 65% and even higher once they have pipped internally.

Bird banding:
Recommended closed leg band ring size for the Paradise Shelduck is 13 mm.
The leg band ring can only be applied on a young shelduck at around 14 days old.

It doesn't matter what leg that you band, but it's good to have a consistent system.
Suggested: Left leg = Female, Right leg = Male
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Maintenance food:
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Floating full food for all sea ducks, green ducks, eider ducks and geese, especially in the moulting and breeding phase ideally suited. Packed with wholesome raw materials, natural vitamins and trace elements, this performance food with a protein content of 30% forms the basis for lifelong vitality.

Photos of the Paradise Shelduck