The Paradise Shelduck, also called the New Zealand Shelduck, is a beautiful and distinctive bird endemic to New Zealand. It is known for its striking and contrasting colors - the male has a black head, neck and breast with a green iridescent sheen, while the female has a white head, chestnut-colored body and a conspicuous white eye-ring.
These ducks prefer to live in open grasslands, riverbeds and estuaries, and can often be seen feeding on seeds, grasses and insects. These birds are also known for their longevity, they can live up to 20-25 years in the wild.
During the breeding season, male paradise shelducks become territorial and fiercely defend their nest sites. They use a variety of displays and calls to communicate with their mates and other males in order to establish dominance. These displays include head dipping, tail raising, and bill arching. The females lay 5-12 eggs which incubate for around 30 days.
Paradise Shelducks are not migratory birds and are found throughout New Zealand all year round. They are highly valued both culturally and ecologically. Maori tribes regard shelducks as a taonga or treasure, and their eggs were once a delicacy. Today, they are protected by law and hunting them is strictly regulated.
Over the years, paradise shelduck populations have faced challenges due to habitat destruction, predation and competition from introduced species. Conservation efforts have helped stabilize and preserve their population, and today there are an estimated 120,000 Paradise Shelducks throughout New Zealand.
Overall, the Paradise Shelduck is a fascinating bird with a unique beauty and cultural significance. Their adaptability and resilience make them an important part of New Zealand's ecosystem and heritage.