South African Shelduck Tadorna cana Scientific name definitions

David G. Allan
Version: 2.0 — Published February 23, 2023

Conservation and Management

Red List Category: Least Concern (59). The species has benefited from the construction of the large number of artificial waterbodies, especially dams, within its range, and anthropogenic changes to wetlands are usually to its advantage, as they typically result in a reduction of vegetation cover (91, 10). Its ability to exploit fallen grain in crop fields has also benefited the species, especially due to the reliability and nutrient value of this food source, and its availability during the vulnerable period associated with molting (102, 28). This has resulted in an increase in the species’ abundance within its historical range and an expansion into previously unoccupied areas. Unlike several other waterfowl species, it has not benefited directly or indirectly from cattle feedlots in Gauteng Province (141).

The concentration of a large proportion of the total population at relatively few sites during wing molt is potentially hazardous, but many of these sites are formally protected (10). The species is nevertheless sensitive during this period and requires ongoing protection from disturbance, such as from watersport enthusiasts (23). Its reliance on Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) for nest sites is of concern as this mammal is considered threatened in South Africa (142, 3). Overall, however, its current conservation status appears healthy.

Effects of Human Activity

Habitat Loss and Degradation

The species could potentially be vulnerable to climate change through a radical, climatically induced, loss and shift in suitable habitat (143, 144).

Shooting, Hunting, and Trapping

The South African Shelduck’s exploitation of agricultural fields renders it vulnerable to shooting, and intentional and accidental poisoning (102, 28, 49). This species is easily confused by farmers with the Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca), a notorious crop pest, and is sometimes persecuted as a result (28). Apparently it is shot at Bloemfontein and Kimberley airports in South Africa during bird control operations to safeguard aircraft from collisions with flying birds (107).

The species’ meat is not very palatable, and this shelduck is difficult to hunt at wetland sites due to its relatively shy nature and the open nature of its preferred waterbodies (66, 91, 3). The South African Shelduck was available for legal recreational hunting under permit in the following South African provinces during 2021, with hunting season and individual daily bag limits in parentheses: North-West Province (1 January–31 March; 2), Western Cape (1 January–30 June; 5), Northern Cape (1 January–31 March; 5), and Eastern Cape (1 January–31 March; 2) (South African Wingshooters Association 2021). In Namibia it is listed under Schedule 4 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance 4 of 1975 and cannot be hunted for recreation (Namibia Biodiversity Database 2021). It is also not available for recreational hunting in Botswana.

Pesticides and Other Contaminants/Toxics

South African Shelduck could be threatened by water contamination, especially due to its extensive reliance on artificial wetlands, with particular relevance to potential large-scale hydraulic fracturing for shale gas, which typically produces large quantities of contaminated waste water, in the Karoo biome (145).

Collisions with Stationary/Moving Structures or Objects

In flight, the species is vulnerable to mortality via collisions with overhead power lines, and is also considered potentially vulnerable to electrocution on overhead electrical infrastructure, although it rarely (if ever?) perches above ground (146, 147). Another potentially emerging threat could be in-flight collisions with blades of wind turbines, which are increasingly being installed in parts of the species’ range (148).


Information needed.

Recommended Citation

Allan, D. G. (2023). South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (G. D. Engelbrecht, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.soashe1.02