Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Shelducks

(1) Shelduck
(1) Shelduck
(2) Shelduck
(2) Shelduck
(3) Shelduck
(3) Shelduck
(4) Shelduck
(4) Shelduck
(5) Shelduck
(5) Shelduck
(6) Shellduck
(6) Shellduck

 

 

The Shelduck

Quite a few people have been asking me about large goose-like birds that are being seen at beaches and lochs on Bute at the moment.

These are “Shelducks”, a duck that is almost the size of a goose and is very colourful, mostly white with black on its wings and a chestnut band that goes right round its chest and round its neck.

It has an olive head and neck and a very bright red bill.
The male (pictured) has a bulbous lump at the base of its bill whilst the female has not.
The bulk of these ducks nest in burrows on embankments or sandbanks and this is why we are seeing them so close. They can have as many as 15 eggs in a clutch and the sight of 15 ducklings emerging from the darkness of the burrow is a wonder to watch.

We have heard of the saying “water of a ducks back”? Well this is fine for an adult but not for a duckling whose downy feathers are no good for shedding water or retaining heat so the ducklings can die from the cold and rain very quickly.

A few years ago I was watching a female Shelduck with its 10 offspring walking along the beach at Ettrick Bay when we had a sudden downpour. All the ducklings ran to their mum and she opened her wings to form an umbrella to keep them dry. She stayed like this for 10 minutes until the rain had stopped. (nature at its best).

Enjoy these birds which are very handsome and very vocal.

Norrie Mulholland

First Published in the Buteman 28-06-2001

 

 


Pagehits: 1148 (Today: 1)