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Northern Shoveler

Spatula clypeata

Unlike the rest of the dabbling ducks, the Northern Shoveler is more of a surface feeder, Their large odd-shaped bill has over a hundred fine projections called lamellae along the edges, for filtering tiny crustaceans, other aquatic invertebrates, and seeds from the shallow waterways where they like to feed.

These birds are not only North American, but make homes across Europe and Asia as well. Most of our North American birds migrate in summer to the higher latitudes of the northern Great Plains and through the Canadian Yukon and Alaska. Some spend summers near the Great Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River Valley. Winters find most of these ducks further south, in places from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeastern USA, the Atlantic seaboard, and deep into Mexico. In a few locations, like the western Great Basin, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley, they are year-round residents.

I’ve found these ducks are often more confiding than other species, seemingly less bothered by the presence of human observers. I sometimes find these ducks foraging in rafts of several dozen members, swimming in tight formation with bills sifting the water’s surface to filter tiny prey from the shallows.

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