South African Shelduck Tadorna cana Scientific name definitions

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


Field Identification

The South African Shelduck is a large, richly colored, and distinctive waterfowl.

Similar Species

Noticeably larger than most of the other sympatric ducks and geese that share its range; only the Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) and Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis), and the Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos) average larger in size. The South African Shelduck is most likely to be overlooked amongst flocks of Egyptian Goose, but is more richly colored than the latter, and it lacks the brown eye patch, breast spot, gray underparts, pale bill, and reddish legs of the Alopochen. These two species appear similar in flight, but South African Shelduck has a different head and neck pattern, and lacks the black line through the upperwing-coverts of Egyptian Goose. The white face of the female South African Shelduck can result in confusion with the White-faced Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna viduata), but that species is darker, much smaller and slimmer in build, relatively longer necked and longer legged, and has barred underparts. In flight, White-faced Whistling-Duck has dark upper- and underwing coverts, unlike the obvious white visible on South African Shelduck.

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