The South African Shelduck loves shallow bodies of water with muddy shores. These birds are chestnut-coloured, with the distinction between males and females made by their faces – the females having white faces and the males grey. Their wings are marked with black, white and green.
The shelduck will feed both on land – on grain in crop fields – and in water on aquatic invertebrates and algae. They are gregarious, but territorial during breeding season. They often nest in abandoned aardvark holes, as well as those of springhares and porcupines. Nesting in these holes shelters them from potential threats such as predators and high temperatures. Their nests are typically lined with grass, down and feathers. The bond between the male and female is strong and may continue outside of the breeding season. The female can lay up to 15 eggs. She also incubates the eggs, while the male protects it by hissing if there is a possibility of danger. Both the male and the female will protect their newly hatched fledglings. They are partially migratory, moving seasonally relative to the availability of water.
Although they are not considered a vulnerable species, due to their extremely large range, human interference through water sports can pose a threat by disturbing their environment. Furthermore, they rely particularly on the aardvark’s holes for nesting and the latter’s threatened status influences the shelduck.