Family Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)

Least Concern

South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana)


French: Tadorne à tête grise German: Graukopfkasarka Spanish: Tarro sudafricano

Anas cana

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Sometimes placed in genus Casarca together with T. ferruginea, T. tadornoides and T. variegata. Closest to T. ferruginea; one phylogenetic analysis found these two to be sisters#R. Hybridization with other Tadorna species and Alopochen aegyptiaca reported in captivity. Monotypic.


S Africa from C Namibia and SE Botswana S to Cape of Good Hope.

Descriptive notes

61–66 cm; male 910–2200 g, female 700–1835 g. Very similar to T. ferruginea but with greyer head. Upperwing characteristic in flight with white on... read more


Adults give loud nasal honk both at rest and, especially, in flight, which is usually lower pitched... read more


Favours shallow freshwater and brackish wetlands in open country (latter perhaps especially in non-... read more

Food and feeding

Essentially vegetarian during dry season, mainly grain and algae, e.g. Spirogyra, Apus numidus and Lagarosiphon... read more


Starts Jun/Jul (dry season), with courtship in E Cape Province lasting Feb–May, with egg-laying Jul–Oct (midwinter, when... read more


Basically sedentary, but seasonal movements related to moulting and to water availability performed... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common, with estimated total population of c. 42,000 in 1981, with c. 30,000 of these at 16 moulting localities in Free State; at... read more

Recommended citation

Carboneras, C. (2019). South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 November 2019).