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Northern Shoveler

Photos © John White

Northern Shoveler
Anas clypeata

The Northern Shoveler is a common and widespread duck.

This species is unmistakable in the northern hemisphere due to its large spatulate bill. The breeding male has a green head, white breast and chestnut belly and flanks. In flight, pale blue forewing feathers are revealed, separated from the green speculum by a white border. In early fall the male will have a white crescent on each side of the face. In non-breeding plumage, the drake resembles the female.

The female is light brown, with plumage much like a female Mallard, but easily distinguished by the long broad bill, which is gray tinged with orange on cutting edge and lower mandible. The female's forewing is grey.

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 dabbling duck is strongly migratory and winters further south than its breeding range.  In North America it winters south of a line from Washington to Idaho and from New Mexico east to Kentucky, also along the Eastern Seaboard as far north as Massachusetts.  It is not as gregarious as some dabbling ducks outside the breeding season and tends to form only small flocks.

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

Northern Shovelers feed by dabbling for plant food, often by swinging its bill from side to side and using the bill to strain food from the water. It also eats mollusks and insects in the nesting season.
The nest is a shallow depression on the ground, lined with plant material and down, usually close to water.

This is a fairly quiet species. The male has a clunking call, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.