Living Bird Magazine
Northern ShovelerSpatula clypeata
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
Perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of the dabbling ducks thanks to its large spoon-shaped bill, the Northern Shoveler busily forages head down in shallow wetlands. Its uniquely shaped bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out tiny crustaceans and seeds from the water. If the bill doesn’t catch your eye, the male's blocky color palette sure will, with its bright white chest, rusty sides, and green head. The female is no less interesting with a giant orange bill and mottled brown plumage.More ID Info
Find This Bird
National Wildlife Refuges are a great place to look for Northern Shovelers from migration throughout the winter months (August–April). Look around the fringes of shallow areas for groups of ducks with their heads down foraging intently. They tend to use more stagnant pools of water than other ducks, so you may also find them in smaller and murkier pools of water. The male's bright white chest will surely attract your attention if you don't immediately see their giant bill. Shovelers are a little less wary than other ducks, sometimes affording closer looks without the need of a spotting scope.
- Cuchara Común (Spanish)
- Canard souchet (French)
- Cool Facts
- The bill of the Northern Shoveler is big (about 2.5 inches long) and shaped like a shovel, but that odd-shaped bill also has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges that act like a colander, filtering out tiny crustaceans, seeds, and aquatic invertebrates from the water.
- Northern Shovelers are monogamous and remain together longer than pairs of most other dabbling ducks. They form bonds on the wintering grounds and stay together until just before fall migration.
- When flushed off the nest, a female Northern Shoveler often defecates on its eggs, apparently to deter predators.
- Northern Shovelers don't just occur in the Americas, they also breed across Europe and spend the winter throughout Europe, Africa, and India.
- The oldest recorded Northern Shoveler was a male, and at least 16 years, 7 months old when he was found in Nevada.