This large duck is very common in aviaries and easy to
keep and raise. Ruddy Shelducks breed in a broad band
from Morocco, through most of central Asia to china.
Many birds are year round residents of the breeding
range, but some winter in the Nile valley, India and
south-east Asia. There are even reports of stragglers
to the United Kingdom and North America, but these may
be escaped aviary birds. However, there was a huge
population explosion during the end of the 19th
Century and these birds were seen as far north as
Greenland and Iceland!
When seen from a distance, the sexes appear similar,
but closer observation reveals that the males have a
black neck ring and hens have a white face. The
overall color is orange blended with brown and
chestnut; they have white wing coverts, metallic green
speculum and black primaries and tail. The bill and
feet are black.
They are very similar to the Cape Shelduck (T. cana)
and I have even read that some ornithologists have
classed the Cape Shelduck as a subspecies of the
Ruddy. While they are very similar in appearance and
behavior, most recognize the Cape as a separate
Breeding this duck is not difficult. They do require
an burrow-type nest box to lay the clutch of 8 to 16
eggs. I have noticed that this species begins to lay
earlier than most waterfowl. The hen will pull lots of
down to line the nest, but I also provide plenty of
pine shavings as nesting material. Incubation lasts
about 28 days. You can allow the hen to hatch her own
eggs, and both of the adults make good parents.
Sometimes the male is more protective over the brood
than the hen!
Young birds may not breed until their second year. The
immature are similar to the adults, but are paler and
have gray markings on the wings.
While they are considered great ducks for the
beginner, they are very aggressive towards other
species of waterfowl and may need to be housed in
their own aviary. I have also seen them spar
with the related Egyptian Goose (Alopchen
aegyptiacus) through the sides of an adjoining
Ruddy Shelducks have a very loud call that can be
heard from quite a distance. Males honk, almost like a
goose and hens make a louder 'Ka-ha-ha'. They do very
well in captivity, but require a larger aviary than
other species of waterfowl. They are very hardy and
can withstand very cold temperatures.
They can be aggressive during the breeding season
(and even kill other ducks and geese), therefore it
would be wise to house pairs separate from other
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Cape Shelduck Drake
Cape Shelduck Hen
Hen on the left and Drake on the right side