Shoveler is a duck included in the family Anatidae. This family is
made up of ducks and duck-like waterfowl. The members of this
family share adaptations to life on the water including webbed feet,
flattened bills, and feathers with special oils to prevent water
absorption. Its Latin name, Anas clypeata, is translated to
This refers to the white on a male’s chest that resembles a shield.
The Northern Shoveler is a dichromatic species. This means that the
male and female have difference physical appearances. In the
breeding season, the male Northern Shoveler displays an iridescent
green head, a yellow eye, a white chest, and chestnut colored sides.
It also has a green speculum, white tail, and black bill. When it
is not the breeding season, the male is more mottled with a brown
colored head. The female Northern Shoveler has a mottled appearance
with a brown iris, a green speculum, a white tail, and a yellow bill
that is black near the tip. Both the male and female have orange
legs and feet and are easily distinguished from other ducks by their
large, wide, spoon-shaped bill.
Shoveler can be found in shallow marshes, ponds, and wetlands.
During the breeding season, it is dependent on open grasslands near
shallow bodies of water. Prairie potholes provide this duck with an
ideal habitat for nesting. The Northern Shoveler ranges from Alaska
to California, Nebraska, and Wisconsin in the breeding season. Some
local breeding populations can also be found in New York. It
winters along the east coast from New Jersey southward, the west
coast from Oregon southward, and throughout the southern portion of
the United States. The Northern Shoveler also migrates as far south
as Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.
Shoveler is a dabbling duck. This means that it feeds by inverting
its body on the surface of the water instead of diving. The duck
primarily moves by swimming or flying, but it is also an agile
walker. The Northern Shoveler male is territorial during the
breeding where it can spend up to ninety percent of its time
defending its area. The predators of the duck and its nest include
the Red Fox, Mink, and American Crow. The Northern Shoveler is
mostly a monogamous species with pairs forming late in the season on
the wintering grounds. However, if there is an opportunity, the
male will mate with a second female. The nest is a scrape in the
ground about two centimeters deep. The hole is filled with down and
other vegetation. The female will lay nine to twelve pale olive
buff to green-gray eggs. The hatchlings will follow their mother
from the nest the dawn after hatching. The female stays with her
young until they fledge.
Where to see them in WNY
Shoveler can be found in WNY during their migration in the spring
and fall. Northern Shoveler migration usually peaks around April in
the spring and September in the fall. During these times, look for
the Northern Shoveler in marshes and wetlands. Iroquois National
Wildlife Refuge is a great place to search for these fascinating