Northern shoveler — Ducks Unlimited Canada
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Know your waterfowl

Northern shoveler

Anas clypeata

Three shovelers take flight from a prairie marsh. ©DUC

The northern shoveler is a highly specialized dabbling duck.


  • Often referred to as “spoonbills” or “spoonies” because of their unique spatula-shaped bill.
  • The breeding male has a green head, white body, reddish brown flanks and black bill.
  • The female is grey-brown with subtle black streaking. She has an olive-green bill, a green speculum and blue shoulder patches.
  • At a quick glance, a hen shoeveler could be mistaken for a female mallard.


  • Northern shovelers begin pairing in December.
  • Males use a variety of auditory displays.

Habitat: Northern shovelers inhabit open, shallow and muddy wetlands with an abundance of submergent vegetation.

Range: Departs from the wintering grounds in late March and are one of the last ducks to arrive on the breeding grounds. Breeds in the prairie pothole and parkland regions.

Diet: In summer, their diet is dominated by small crustaceans, seeds and larvae. In winter, they consume large quantities of small mollusks, aquatic insects and zooplankton.

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