PROTECTED SPECIES: The Radjah Shelduck is one of the bird specieis which has spread itself to cover a larger habitat range.
PROTECTED SPECIES: The Radjah Shelduck is one of the bird specieis which has spread itself to cover a larger habitat range. Keith Ireland

'They are slow to take off at the sign of danger'

IN A previous anecdote, I mentioned how a number of birds had spread themselves to cover a larger habitat range.

The radjah shelduck is one of these species.

It is easily distinguished from other ducks being mainly pure white with chestnut-coloured feathers on its back and stripe around the chest which look more like black except in the sun.

Going back through one of my old bird textbooks printed about 30 years ago, the distribution of this bird at that time was stated as being only found along the northern coastline from the Western Australian border with the Northern Territory, across the Territory and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

It said that only the odd few would be found along our eastern side.

At that time also, the official name was the Burdekin duck, which is still used today by some people.

It was a surprise for me, quite a few years ago now, when a friend on a property between Rockhampton and the coast, rang to tell me he had a pair of Burdekin ducks on his dam.

Since that time, these birds have been regular visitors to the Capricorn Coast where I took the photograph above.

They usually congregate in small groups though some extremely large numbers have been reported at times.

In a bird book published fairly recently, where each bird's territory is illustrated on a map, the range of the radjah shelduck has been taken across to the eastern coast and extended as far south as Central Queensland.

These birds prefer to stay near sea water, spending much of their time in the mud flats of the tidal areas, often roosting on logs or other perching places before moving back to forage again.

Unfortunately, although these are a protected species, many have been shot and their numbers are dwindling.

Their flight is quick and fairly straight but as they are slow to take off at the sign of danger, and so they are an easy target for ignorant or inexperienced shooters.



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