Birds – Ducks – The Shovelers

The Shovelers (Spatula) are another well-marked group of Ducks, distinguished at once by the bill, which is longer than the head and expanded at the tip until it is nearly twice as broad as at the compressed base. The upper mandible overhangs the lower at the tip, exposing the lamellae, which resemble the teeth of a fine comb. The body is proportionally very large, while the legs are quite short. Of the four recognized species the Common Shoveler (S. clypeata) is the best known, being found throughout the whole of the Northern Hemisphere, breeding in North America from Texas to Alaska, and in the Old World in Europe and western Asia. In the male the head and neck are dark metallic green, the breast and outer scapulars white, while the lower parts are uniform chestnut. The speculum is bright metallic green, the bill deep black, and the feet orange-red. The female is similar but duller and more grayish brown; the length is from seventeen to twenty-one inches. This species feeds largely in shallow water and was found breeding abundantly in North Dakota by Mr. Bent. The nests were placed on the broad expanse of virgin prairie, often far away from the water, and were hidden in the thick green grass, the nest proper being a mere depression in the ground, lined with dry grasses and down. The eggs number from six to ten, and though smaller in size are similar in color to those of the Pintail. The Shoveler breeds in many places throughout the British Islands, selecting marshy lands and swampy heaths, and making a nest similar to that described above.

In southern South America the Red Shoveler (S. Platalea) takes the place of the other at the north. It is reddish both above and below, marked with round black spots, and having the lesser wing-coverts blue and the middle ones white. It is met with in small flocks and feeds mostly in shallow water. The other species of the genus are the Cape Shoveler (S. capensis) of South Africa and the Australian Shoveler (S. Rhynchotis) of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.