Northern Shoveler

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Common Name: Northern Shoveler
Scientific Name: Anas clypeata

Size: 17.3-20.1 inches (44-51 cm); Wingspan: 30 inches (76 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; It breeds in northern areas of Europe and Asia and across most of North America, wintering in southern Europe, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Central, and northern South America. It is a rare vagrant to Australia. In North America, it breeds along the southern edge of Hudson Bay and west of this body of water, and as far south as the Great Lakes west to Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon.

This is a bird of open wetlands, such as wet grassland or marshes with some emergent vegetation.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 5,500,000 to 6,000,000 individuals. The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends. The species is threatened by habitat loss in Britain and Ireland. This species has undergone a small or statistically insignificant increase over the last 40 years in North America. The Northern Shoveler is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Diet: Small swimming invertebrates and some seeds. They forage by swimming along with bill lowered into the water, straining out small crustaceans and other invertebrates. They do not commonly tip their head and upper body forward into the water.

Nesting: The drake (male) shoveler has flamboyant breeding plumage and is easily distinguishable from the female. Breeding Plumage: The head is dark glossy green and the bill is black. The back is dark brown to black and the chest is white. The flanks and belly are chestnut-brown. The male’s eyes are yellow. Eclipse Plumage: After molting, the appearance is duller. The head and breast are brownish black speckled with whitish or tan. The back is black with tan feather edges. The flanks are light brown and it may show indistinct white crescent on the face behind bill. The eyes remain yellow.

Females are grayish-brown overall; some of the feathers have light edging with darker centers. The bill is olive-green with yellowish base and edges. The eyes are brown.

Immature birds are similar in appearance to birds in this eclipse phase but look somewhat darker.

Northern Shoveler pairs are monogamous, and remain together longer than pairs of other dabbling duck species. The males exhibit elaborate courtship behavior, including various calls, turns, dips, and wing flaps.

The nest is a simple scrape lined with down and usually surrounded on at least three sides by vegetation. It is placed in short vegetation near water. 8-12 eggs are laid and are pale greenish-gray or buff olive. Upon hatching, the chicks are covered in down and able to walk and swim immediately.

Cool Facts: The shoveler is named for its extraordinary, oversized bill, which has a broad, elongated, spoon-shape with comb-like projections along its edges. These filter the food from the water. The bill is about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) long.

Shovelers rarely 'up-end' like mallard and other surface-feeding ducks. However, they will dive if disturbed. They are not as gregarious as some dabbling ducks outside the breeding season and tend to form only small flocks.

When flushed off the nest, a female Northern Shoveler often defecates on its eggs, apparently to deter predators.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume I: Dabbling Ducks

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