Northern Shoveler

(Spatula clypeata)

Perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of the dabbling ducks thanks to its large spoon-shaped bill, the Northern Shoveler busily forages head down in shallow wetlands. Its uniquely shaped bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out tiny crustaceans and seeds from the water. If the bill doesn’t catch your eye, the male's blocky color palette sure will, with its bright white chest, rusty sides, and green head. The female is no less interesting with a giant orange bill and mottled brown plumage.

The bill of the Northern Shoveler is big (about 2.5 inches long) and shaped like a shovel, but that odd-shaped bill also has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges that act like a colander, filtering out tiny crustaceans, seeds, and aquatic invertebrates from the water.

Information from the All About Birds website, www.allaboutbirds.org, © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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© 2020 by AJ Reinhart