April 05, 2014

Northern Shoveler ›

Northern Shoveler

The Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) looks like the mallard because of its colours, but it is smaller and belongs to another species. Its spatula-shaped beak is longer than its head. The drake has a bottle green head, a white chest, brown flanks in early autumn, and a white crescent marked face like the blue-winged teal. The female has a greyish beak and an orange-coloured mandible. In flight, both sexes show blue top coverts.

It is a common and abundant species in western America and it seems to be increasing in number in the east. It lives in marshes, ponds, and coves because it likes soft and brackish water. For the winter period, it looks for maritime coasts.

Pair formation occurs during winter. In their nesting zone, the nest is placed on the ground close to water and covered with the female's down. The female lays 8 to 12 eggs around April and May, which have an incubation period of 22 to 23 days. The northern shoveler ducklings are raised by their mother and usually fly for the first time when they are six weeks old. Contrary to other species’ drakes, northern shoveler drakes protect the nest for several days after the laying. This is a behaviour that can be explained by their way of eating which takes them much more time than other species. In fact, the northern shoveler's beak is spatula-shaped and fitted to catch food. It continually sucks in and filters water, which is rejected, and keeps edible particles. It eats vegetal matter and small aquatic animals like crustaceans, molluscs, and planktons.