Ruddy Shelduck

Ruddy Shelduck
Ruddy Shelduck
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Tadorninae
Genus: Tadorna
Species: T. ferruginea
Binomial name
Tadorna ferruginea
(Pallas, 1764)

Casarca ferruginea
Anas ferruginea
Casarca rutila

The Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea, is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. In India it is known as the Brahminy Duck.



There are very small resident populations of this species in north west Africa and Ethiopia, but the main breeding area of this species is from south east Europe across central Asia to southeast China. These birds are mostly migratory, wintering in southern Asia.

Male and Female at Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur

Although becoming quite rare in southeast Europe and southern Spain, the Ruddy Shelduck is still common across much of its Asian range. It may be this population which gives rise to vagrants as far west as Iceland, Great Britain and Ireland. However, since the European population is declining, it is likely that most occurrences in western Europe in recent decades are escapes or feral birds. Although this bird is observed in the wild from time to time in eastern North America, no evidence of a genuine vagrant has been found.


This is a bird of open country, and it will breed on cliffs,[1] in burrows, tree holes or crevices distant from water, laying 6-16 creamy-white eggs, incubated for 30 days. The Ruddy Shelduck is usually found in pairs or small groups and rarely forms large flocks. However, moulting and wintering gatherings on chosen lakes or slow rivers can be very large.

The Ruddy Shelduck is a distinctive species, 58–70 cm long with a 110–135 cm wingspan. It has orange-brown body plumage and a paler head. The wings are white with black flight feathers. It swims well, and in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck. The sexes of this striking species are similar, but the male has a black ring at the bottom of the neck in the breeding season summer, and the female often has a white face patch. The call is a loud wild honking.

The genus name Tadorna comes from Celtic roots and means "pied waterfowl", essentially the same as the English "shelduck".[2]

In culture

It is identified with the Akkadian "iṣṣūr ḫurri".[3] In Tibet and Mongolia, Ruddy Shelduck is considered sacred by the Buddhists. It is also a sacred animal in Slavic mythology.[citation needed]

In Indian culture

Flying in Pune, Maharashtra, India

In Sanskrit, it is known as the chakravaka (चक्रवाक, IAST: cakravāka) or chakra (चक्र), and also as कामिन्, कोक, or द्वंद्वचर/द्वंद्वचारिन् ("living in couples").[4][5] In Indian literature, cakravāka birds are traditionally considered examples of conjugal love and fidelity.[6][7] When describing (human) married couples, poems often describe them as "attached to each other like cakravāka birds".[6] Cakravāka couples are believed to separate and mourn each night, and reunite during the day.[5][8] During the night the male and female bird call out to each other from opposite banks of the stream.[9] Thus they long for the sunrise, and the sun is considered a friend of the cakravāka birds (kokabandhu).[8][10]

The bird is also known as an_r_il in Tamil and annal in Malayalam,[11] and as cengkerawak in Indonesian.[12] In Assamese this bird is called Chakai-Chakoa. They are always seen together. They are usually found near rivers.


The Ruddy Shelduck is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.



  1. ^ Stockley C H (1923) "Some notes on Indian game birds." J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 29 278–279
  2. ^ Kear, Janet (2005). Ducks, Geese, and Swans. Oxford University Press. p. 420. ISBN 0198610084.,M1. 
  3. ^ Salonen (1973) Vögel und Volgelfang im alten Mesopotamien, Helsinki pp. 143–6
  4. ^ चक्रम् in Apte's dictionary
  5. ^ a b चक्र and cakravāka in Monier-Williams dictionary
  6. ^ a b Cakravāka in Elements of Poetry in the Epics of India by Ram Karan Sharma
  7. ^ Linda Covill, "The cakravāka bird in Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda: the Buddhist twist in a kāvya image", talk at 14th World Sanskrit Conference: Abstract
  8. ^ a b Sādhana, dīkṣha of a cātaka pakṣhi: with a poem by Adi Shankara
  9. ^ Arthur Avalon, Hymns to the Goddess: Narmadāsṭakastotram by Śankarācārya
  10. ^ Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta Antya 18.98
  11. ^ South Dravidian etymology
  12. ^ Sanskrit Loan Words in Indonesian / Malaysian

General references

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