There are, I believe, 7 types of Sheldrakes – and it is the ‘Common Shelduck’ we’ve been observing in the Ria Formosa. It is the same genus as the one you will see around Britain’s coastal areas.
They are not very easy to photograph here as they are incredibly cautious, like many wildfowl, but as you can see thanks to the fact I am getting better at approaching and I’ve got a great camera, I am finally getting photographs worthy of their beauty.
According to our 1999 edition of the Collins Bird Guide the Shelduck is a winter visitor to the Algarve, more recent distribution maps show them as native in this part of the Algarve but non-breeding. An example perhaps of changing bird behaviour. The ones we have seen in late March all seems to be pairs, and we have seen far more over the past couple of weeks than we have done in earlier months.
And for those who like to know a little bit more……the collective noun for Shelducks is a dropping hence the title. Their genus name – Tadorna – and the english name – Sheldrake – means ‘pied waterfowl’. And pied they certainly are! They have a wonderful and very bold patterned plumage, and a fabulous red bill with a prominent knob. They are not the largest of ducks, but do seem quite big when together. You will also notice they are goose-like, especially in the way they stretch their necks to raise their heads. They do this quite a bit when they spot you approaching! And the something new I have learnt about them this week is that they nest in burrows, apparently they like rabbit holes!