Florida Ducks The Northern Shoveler
Dabbling Ducks of the Marsh Flats
Friday August 18, 2017
Description: Perhaps the most visible diagnostic characteristic of the northern shoveler is its large, spoon shaped bill, which widens towards the tip and creates a shape unique among North American waterfowl. Male northern shovelers have an iridescent green head and neck, white chest and breast, and chestnut belly and sides. They have a white stripe extending from the breast along the margin of the gray-brown back, and white flank spots. The wings have a gray-blue shoulder patch, which is separated from a brilliant green speculum by a tapered white stripe. The bill is black in breeding plumage and the legs and feet are orange. During display male will utter a repeated liquid, hollow "g-dunk g-dunk g-dunk" often in flight as well as from water. Female northern shovelers have a light brownish head with a blackish crown, and a brownish speckled body. The upper wing coverts are grayish-blue, the greater secondary coverts are tipped with white, and the secondaries are brown with a slight greenish sheen. The bill is olive-green, with fleshy-orange in the gape area, and speckled with black dots.
Breeding: Northern shovelers breed in the parklands, short- and mixed-grass prairies of Canada, and the grasslands of the north central USA. They prefer shallow marshes that are mud-bottomed and rich in invertebrate life. Nest sites are generally located on the ground in grassy areas lacking woody cover and away from open water. Female northern shovelers lay an average of 9 eggs.
Migrating and Wintering: Northern shovelers fly from the prairie pothole region through the Pacific or Central Flyway, with major stopover areas in the Great Salt Lake, Malheur Basin, and Carson Sink. They winter in California, coastal Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico, and the north and central highlands of Mexico. Wintering habitat includes fresh and brackish coastal marshes, and ponds. Saltwater wetlands are generally avoided. Northern shovelers are common winter visitor to Central America, the Caribbean and northern Colombia, and are found occasionally in Trinidad (Scott and Carbonell, 1986).
Population: Northern shoveler populations have shown a fluctuating but consistent rise since the 1950s. The 2001 breeding population survey was 3.3 million birds, which is well above the North American Waterfowl Management Plan target population of 2 million.
Food habits: Northern shovelers feed by dabbling and sifting in shallow water. Seeds of sedges, bulrushes, saw grass, smartweeds, pondweeds, algae, and duckweeds, also aquatic insects, mollusks, and crustaceans are consumed by filtering water which is taken in at the bill tip and jetted out at the base.
1). Ducks Unlimited "Waterfowl ID Gallery" Northern Shoveler Facts
The Northern Shoveler in the photograph above was taken with my youngest daughter, Mekenzie on the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge during the Christmas Holiday in 2008. We saw so many ducks and as I'm not a duck hunter or bird authority, I had to rush back home and lookup the duck's identity online", explains Captain Richard Bradley of Lagooner Fishing Guides.
An absolutely beautiful duck that can be found in Florida during the winter months on a regular basis. Bird watchers can find these dabbling ducks on the Black Point Drive area on North Merritt Island frequently.
Last modified: December 14 2015 16:40:23.
Published by: Captain Richard Bradley of Lagooner Fishing Guides©
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