Crested Shelduck Tadorna cristata


Justification of Red List Category
There have been no confirmed records of this species since 1964 despite some large-scale publicity campaigns. However, it may well remain extant because there have been a number of unconfirmed records in north-east China, where relatively little fieldwork has been carried out. Searches are also required in eastern Russia, and North Korea. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered.

Population justification
The population is likely to number fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals.

Distribution and population

Tadorna cristata is known from a small number of records from Primorye, Russia, Hokkaido, Japan (single 19th century record) and South Korea. The most recent was a sighting of a male and two females in May 1964, on islands south of Vladivostok, Russia. A sighting of two males and four females was claimed in North Korea in March 1971, but serious reservations have recently been expressed about the reliability of this record. There have also been several unconfirmed records from north-east China, in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Hebei. Given the paucity of recent records, it is likely that it has a very small population.


It has mainly been recorded in pairs or small flocks in coastal localities, often near river mouths. However, several of the unconfirmed reports in north-east China are from inland localities. It has been speculated that it may breed in mountainous areas, possibly away from water or on volcanic lakes, moving to the coast outside the breeding season.


If it still survives, its numbers are likely to be so low that it would be susceptible to chance or accidental extinction. Several of the historical localities are close to the area affected by the implementation of the large-scale Tumangan Development Project.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix II. In 1983, three million leaflets on this species were distributed in Russia, Japan, China, South Korea and North Korea. However, there was little response, with the only result the single unconfirmed record from North Korea. A new investigation was made in China from 1986-1990, through a publicity campaign and the distribution of 15,000 leaflets in 25 provinces and autonomous regions. This generated 82 responses, but no confirmed records.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to search for the species within its potential range through publicity campaigns and the distribution of illustrated leaflets. Conduct surveys at historical localities and in those areas where there have been unconfirmed sightings.


60-63 cm. Unmistakable, dark shelduck with red bill and legs and mostly white wing-coverts. Male has greyish head sides, upper foreneck, lower mantle, scapulars and belly, and pale rufous undertail-coverts. Female is similar, but with white face and spectacles, whiter lower head sides and upper foreneck, rather uniform brownish-grey upperparts and whitish-buff barring to lower foreneck and belly.


Text account compilers
Bird, J., Benstead, P., Chan, S., Crosby, M., Peet, N., Symes, A., Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Tadorna cristata. Downloaded from on 24/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/03/2023.