Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler


Profile Northern Shoveler     Literature page Northern

[order] Anseriformes | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Anas clypeata | [UK] Northern Shoveler | [FR] Canard souchet | [DE] Löffelente | [ES] Pato Cuchara | [IT] Mestolone comune | [NL] Slobeend

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The very large, spatulate bill is the most distinguishing feature of the aptly named Northern Shoveler. The male in breeding plumage has bright wings, a bright iridescent-green head with a yellow eye, bold white breast, and chestnut sides. Females, juveniles, and males in eclipse plumage (from May through August) are mottled brown with orange legs and a green-black iridescent speculum with a blue patch on the forewing.
Northern Shovelers rarely tip up, but filter mud through their bills, swimming with their heads outstretched, bills skimming the water’s surface, sifting out food. In flight they stay in tight bunches, weaving to and fro like shorebirds. Shovelers are very territorial, and pair bonds remain intact through incubation, unlike most other species of ducks.

Northern Shovelers inhabit shallow, marshy ponds and wetlands at low elevations. Breeding habitat is in open country (prairie or tundra), or lowland woodlands and clearings, always near shallow water. During winter and migration they will use virtually any wetland as long as it has muddy edges. Shovelers will forage in sewage ponds and stagnant or polluted waters avoided by other species of ducks.

Anas clypeata is widespread breeder across much of Europe, which accounts for less
than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
large (>170,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although no trend data
were available for the stronghold in Russia during 1990-2000, several countries-
notably the Netherlands-suffered marked declines, and the species probably
underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
This duck inhabits North America and northern Eurasia. For practical reasons its populations of the European Union can be subdivided in two distinct sub-populations, separated by their wintering quarters. The first, totalling about 40000 individuals and apparently stable, is wintering in the Atlantic regions from Denmark to the British Isles and Aquitaine. The second population is estimated at 450000 individuals, but its current trends are unknown. It winters in the Black Sea region, the Mediterranean and West Africa.

The bill of the Shoveler is ideally suited for straining small swimming invertebrates from the water and mud. Seeds and aquatic plants are also important food items, especially during winter

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 5,000,000-6,400,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

Pair formation begins in the winter and continues during spring migration. Males remain with the females through the incubation period. The female chooses the site (generally in short grass). She builds the nest, a shallow depression made of grass and weeds, lined with down, and incubates the 9 to 12 eggs for 23 to 28 days by herself. A few hours after they hatch, the female leads the young to the water where they can swim and forage immediately. The young typically stay close to the cover of emergent vegetation, and the female tends them until they fledge at 52 to 66 days of age.

Mostly migratory, breeders of Iceland all migrate, probably to Ireland or Britain. Most British breeders move southwards to south France, south Spain, north and central Italy, a few to North Africa. Bulk have left Britain by end October, before main arrivals of Continental birds. Breeders from south Fenno-Scandia and Russia east to and south migrate west and south-west to western seaboard, chiefly Netherlands, Britain, and Ireland, some going further to west and south France and north Spain. Populations of east Russia, Trans-Urals, and west Siberia migrate south through Volga region, then to south Caspian, Azov and Black Seas, and to Mediterranean, particularly Turkey, Greece, Italy, and North Africa, where overlap with north European breeders. Those wintering from Egypt south to East Africa presumably also from Russia. Main autumn migration rather earlier than other Palearctic ducks, except Garganey. Principal passage across Europe in September-October, with major passage through Britain in November. Departs tropical Africa in February, peak movement through Europe mid-March to mid-April, and virtually all breeders returned by early May.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 73 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 82 cm
  4. size min.: 44 cm
  5. size max.: 52 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 22 days
  8. incubation max.: 23 days
  9. fledging min.: 40 days
  10. fledging max.: 45 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 7
  13. eggs max.: 12
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Slobeend status Least Concern
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