Widespread across the world, the beloved Northern Shoveler is a dabbling duck.
Typically found in open wetlands, they prefer mud-bottomed marshes where they hunt for invertebrates.
Dabbling ducks are ducks that dabble in the surface of the water, rather than diving down under. They feed by tipping, tail up, to reach aquatic plants, and sometimes snails. Mallards, a duck most of us know well, are also dabblers.
The northern shoveler is named for its specialized spoon-shaped or spatulate bill. The wide bill has approximately 110 tiny comb-like projections along the edges, used for filtering food from the water. The shoveler skims the water’s surface in search of crustaceans and plankton.
Anas clypeata is a migratory bird, found in much of North America. Where I live, in California, soon they will be gone, returning to the northern parts of the continent for summer breeding. More shoveler info here.
With their clownish bill and bright colors, it is always a joy when this lovable duck returns for the winter.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander