A Ruddy Caped Crusader.

A large moulting population of Ruddy Shelduck appears in Holland each year. Where they come from is apparently unknown. The species stronghold however is within Eastern Europe and Asia wintering in the Indian Subcontinent. It is not unfeasible one or two may make their way into East Anglia eventually.

I remember travelling down to the Isles of Scilly around twenty years ago and meeting up with a flock of around a dozen on the Hayle estuary in Cornwall. Despite these and other likely records Ruddy Shelduck has not yet made it onto the main British list.

The year before last a report of a Ruddy Shelduck saw me off to see it in the Ludham/Repps area down the road in east Norfolk. It was a Cape Shelduck; a resident of South Africa not the possible vagrant from Europe. It was therefore an escape. They do look similar, particularly the females, but the Cape has a darker head plumage, less orange, with a very prominent white facial mask. The head and face pattern on a Ruddy Shelduck is more subtle; less prominent.

A report of a Ruddy Shelduck on a local NT lake at Blickling last month was followed up by a friend and photographed. It was once again A Cape Shelduck. Looking at the literature I can’t find any information on separating the two species. I was beginning to doubt myself on being able to reliably tell the species from Cape Shelduck but I’m assured the differences I’ve highlighted above are correct. I went to see the bird for myself and the face pattern is too strong and the head too dark for a Ruddy Shelduck. I took the photo below. I don’t see how Ruddy Shelduck will ever be truly accepted onto the British list (proper) given the difficulty with identification and the confusion with escaped birds.

Cape Shelduck

….and way back 20 years ago in 1994. A couple of the Ruddy Shelduck in the flock at the Hayle. Now I may owe someone an apology here. The photo below is a digital photo of a photograph (if you know what I mean) in one of my albums. I’m not sure if I took it or not – there’s nothing on the reverse. I remember taking some at the time but I think I was also given one/bought one. If it’s not one of mine I apologise to the original photographer and I’ll remove it immediately if he corrects me.


4 Responses to “A Ruddy Caped Crusader.”

  1. Feb 23, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I shall ask around if anybody has seen any Ruddy Shelduck in the Midlands!

  2. 3 Sacha
    Mar 3, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Hi, I am glad you have explained difference and confirmed as Cape. I too saw the Hayle (wild?) birds and could not find anything online in ID but thought it looked like Cape when I first saw it last year due to amount of white. Thanks for confirmation! Sacha

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Feb 2014


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