The Shelduck is a large-sized species of duck that can be easily identified due to it's distinctive appearance. Their bodies are mainly white in colour with an orange chest band and black wings and although their heads do look black, they are in fact green in colour.
One of the most distinctive features of the Shelduck are their pinkish coloured legs, but it is their bills that make them incredibly easy to identify due to their bright red colouration. The bill of the male Shelduck also a bump at the base making it easier than numerous other water bird species to distinguish between the sexes.
Like other ducks, Shelducks spend nearly all of their time on or very close to water and favour coastal habitats including estuaries and mudflats where there is an abundance of invertebrate prey for them to eat. These habitats also make good breeding and nursery grounds for their small and vulnerable black and white ducklings, where they can easily follow their parents onto the mudflats in search of food.
Although Shelducks can be seen around the British coasts all year round, their population numbers swell in the winter months to more than 80,000 with the arrival of migrants from colder regions in Northern Europe. Some individuals are even known to winter as far south as Northern Africa depending on the region that they inhabit throughout the rest of the year.
Although they are considered to be of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, Shelducks were heavily persecuted in more sandy regions during the 19th century as they were competing with other animals (including rabbits) for burrows in which to nest in. According to The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), there are currently 10,900 breeding pairs in the UK.
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