A brightly coloured large-bodied duck with a small head and bill. Their heads, backs, bellies, and tails are blackish with green metallic highlights. There is a narrow white neckband separating the black head from the brown breast. Male has a black head, bill and neck with a white neck ring and cinnamon coloured breast. Female is smaller, has a chestnut breast and a conspicuous white eye-ring around the base of the bill. The Australian Shelduck is a large dark plumaged duck weighing from 1.3 to 1.5 kg and standing 55 to 73 cm tall. Juvenile birds are duller overall in colouration with some white or grey tips on body feathers.
The nest is usually in a tree hollow or under vegetation lined with down. The female incubates 5-14 cream-coloured eggs for 30-33 days while her mate defends the surrounding territory. The newly hatched young leap from the nest cavity and are led by their parents on a perilous overland journey to their brooding territory. They remain together in a family group for the first six weeks of the ducklings’ lives. Once the young birds fledge they are completely independent.
Live in shallow wetlands, lagoons, farm dams with pasture. Sometimes can be seen at sea. They utilize grasslands, open woodlands, pastures, and agricultural fields for feeding. Post-breeding birds form large flocks of thousands of birds in prime feeding or moulting habitat. Both sexes produce a strange assortment of goose-like honks, grunts, and whistles. The female’s vocalizations are higher in pitch.
Australian Shelducks are primarily grazing birds. They feed on short grasses in pasturelands. Shelducks also dabble in shallow waters in search of aquatic invertebrates like shrimp and submerged vegetation.