Northern Shovelers use shallow wetlands with submerged vegetation during the breeding season, nesting along the margins and in the neighboring grassy fields. Outside of the breeding season they forage in saltmarshes, estuaries, lakes, flooded fields, wetlands, agricultural ponds, and wastewater ponds.Back to top
Shovelers eat tiny crustaceans, other aquatic invertebrates, and seeds which they filter out of the water with comblike projections (called lamellae) along the edge of the bill.Back to top
Females make a small depression on the ground, generally in areas with short vegetation within 150 feet of water.
Females use their body, feet, and bill to make a small depression on the ground about 8 inches wide. The nest scrape is usually surrounded on at least three sides by vegetation and lined with downy feathers.
|Clutch Size:||8-12 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1 brood|
|Egg Length:||1.8-2.2 in (4.6-5.7 cm)|
|Egg Width:||1.3-1.5 in (3.3-3.9 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||22-25 days|
|Egg Description:||Pale greenish gray or olive-buff.|
|Condition at Hatching:||Covered in down and able to walk and swim.|
Northern Shovelers swim through wetlands, often with their bills down in the water, swinging them side to side to filter out tiny crustacean prey. Sometimes large groups swim in circles to stir up food. They don't forage on land regularly, but they do rest on land and walk along wetland edges. They are fairly social ducks, occurring in groups with shovelers and other dabbling ducks, especially during the winter. During the breeding season, they are less tolerant of other shovelers encroaching on their territory. Defensive males often chase intruders on the water and in the air. Males court females on the wintering grounds with turns, dips, wing flaps, and head pumping. Pairs stay together during the breeding season, although males will occasionally mate with a second female. After breeding, males group together in small flocks before and after molting. Males molt their flight feathers before migrating south, becoming flightless for a brief period, when they tend to stay hidden in vegetation especially at night.Back to top
Northern Shovelers are common, and their populations were stable between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 5.9 million and rates them 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carefully manages duck hunting and limits the number of individuals hunters can take every year based on population size. From 2019 to 2021, hunters shot between 450,000 and 470,000 shovelers per year.Back to top
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