Sunday, December 1, 2019

Northern Shoveler

I have posted once previously on the northern shoveler. It was a very poor photo taken at Merritt Island NWR in Florida of either a female or a male outside of breeding season. Earlier this month I was visiting Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake and saw some breeding male northern shovelers along the causeway to the island. The breeding males have spectacular plumage. They were quite a distance away and my photos are grainy, but they are still several steps above my photo in my first post. 
The breeding male (drake) has a dark green iridescent head with a yellow eye, a white breast, chestnut belly and flanks, black back, pale blue forewing feathers (visible in flight), green speculum feathers (trailing secondary feathers) and a white border separating the blue and green on the wings. The female is a drab mottled brown with plumage similar to a female mallard, but easily distinguished by the large spatulate bill. The female's forewing is gray.  In non-breeding plumage, the drake resembles the female. Both drakes and females have orange legs and feet. 
This map from Audubon shows red as a breeding area and purple as all seasons. The Great Salt Lake is surrounded by red and purple. 
A female is at bottom left. The rest are males. Blue, white and green secondary feathers really stand out. 
The green on the head is just barely visible. 
Grainy, but more of a close-up.
Best view of the large bill (left).
They normally inhabit marshes and ponds, but in winter will also visit salt bays (like the Great Salt Lake). They like shallow waters with extensive muddy margins and mainly forage by skimming the surface water with their bill and sift food from the muddy water with their bill. indicates that they rarely dive or "up-end," but I saw lots of up-end activity. 
Several drakes showing "up-end" activity. 

1 comment:

  1. They look like ducks in a cartoon or coloring book. Very fun.