Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler, CA

Northern Shoveler, CA

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.


Northern Shoveler, CA

Northern Shoveler, CA

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


Northern Shoveler, CA

Northern Shoveler, CA

With their clownish bill and bright colors, it is always a joy when this lovable duck returns for the winter.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander



44 thoughts on “Northern Shoveler

  1. They are such fun. I watched a flock of Shovelers recently in the Central Park Reservoir. Their bill is amazing. It is edged with what looks like duck baleen. I like how they swim in circles around each other while sifting the water. Thanks Jet.

  2. As always great pictures and story. These guys stop on our lake spring and fall. They were just here a week ago. They stay for a few days to eat and rest and then off again.

  3. What a magnificent looking creature, I’ve never seen a bird with a spatulate bill before, and this one is a beauty. It almost looks as though the long bill would make it top-heavy, but I guess nature has its ways of balancing things out. Nice story on these dabblers, Jet.

    • While I was enjoying Paris on your blog, you were enjoying the Shoveler in Northern California. 😉 I am so happy to introduce you to the northern shoveler, Elisa — and appreciate your visit.

  4. I love ducks….there is something so endearing about them and this species doesn’t disappoint. When I lived in Wales, I would walk by the river and canal every day and loved to watch the ducks. Thank you, Jet for another informative and fascinating post…I always appreciate. Have a lovely weekend. I am off to a big art opening this evening. Janet:)

  5. LOL I cannot tell a lie, as soon as I saw him I thought of Daffy Duck 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Happy Magical Friday 🙂 May your weekend be Perfectly Enchanting !

  6. Waterfowls are so nice to observe and admire their gentle mannerisms, their plumage usually display a colorful pattern. They are part of the ornamental beauty at any pond. Nice post Jet! 🙂

    • And so many different species of waterfowl we are graced with in this country. I’m happy you enjoyed the post, HJ. And I enjoyed visiting Peru with you today. 🙂

    • Thanks so much Andrea. I just changed the header photo, I am thrilled that you noticed. I hear the area where we photographed those flowers is loaded with wildflowers this year.

  7. Now that is one glorious looking duck!
    Jet, when I brought up your blog, the first thing I saw was “Northern Shoveler”
    Immediately my mind envisioned friends & neighbors all shoveling snow after a big winter storm. LOL I guess that would be northern shovelers.

    • I definitely like knowing there are two kinds of northern shovelers, Resa. You gave me a good laugh, and I know this bird’s name has now expanded forever in my mind. Thanks so much for giving me a smile and expansion too, Resa.

    • Thank you so much, Bertie. She has been photographing northern shovelers for decades, so now she can just spend her time working on the flight photos. These ducks are not flying nearly as much as they are floating on the surface of the water. She was excited, and will appreciate your comment. 🙂

    • They are so very fun to observe, those dabblers. Capturing a duck in the air is not very easy, Athena just focused on ducks in the air that day, so glad you enjoyed her photo, pc. As always, a pleasure to have you visit.

    • Yes, that “top heavy” look is what makes the shoveler so easy to identify. They have similar coloring as the mallard, but their shape is so different. Glad you enjoyed the shoveler today, Sharon. I always enjoy your visits.

    • I am so happy you will be going birding next week Indah! I assume it will be in Minnesota? My favorite field guide is National Geographic, and the most important tool: decent binoculars. Please feel free to ask me questions, I will answer them if I know them. Have a great time!

      • Hi Jet, it will be Costa Rica – I have to start at somewhere warmer 😀 😀 Thank you for the tips – I need to check the guidebook now.. I just bought binoculars and I hope I can use it right – bit nervous too 🙂

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