Size: 17-20" (43-51 cm). The Northern Shoveler is actually a large teal. Easily identified by its broad, spoon-shaped bill and relatively short neck. When swimming, it sits low with its bill angled toward the water. Males have a green head, white breast and chestnut sides. Females are mottled buff to brown. Both sexes have a greenish speculum and bluish patch on the forewing.
Similar Species- Male mallards are larger, have chestnut breast with white belly and narrower bill. Female Blue-winged, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teal are smaller with shorter, narrower bills.
Males give a rattling call while courting: otherwise silent. Females give a low quack.
Breeds from Alaska, east to Manitoba, south to California, New Mexico, and Western Indiana, and locally eastward. Winters from southwestern British Columbia to Arizona, east from there to Gulf Coast, coastal Georgia and South Carolina, and south to northern South America. Rarely winters in northern to north-central or northeastern United States.
Found on shallow, often muddy, freshwater areas with surrounding cover, including ponds, marshes, sloughs, and creeks. During migration and in winter, occupies both freshwater and brackish habitats, and (atypically) cultivated fields. In Idaho, prefers potholes, ponds and marshes at lower elevations.
Opportunistic forager. Eats seeds of sedges, bulrushes, sawgrass, pondweeds, smartweeds, algae, duckweed, and others. Will also eat mollusks, aquatic insects, and crustaceans. Manitoba study found males and females ate primarily aquatic invertebrates during pre-laying and laying periods. Aquatic invertebrates (e.g., water boatmen) may dominate winter diet in some areas.
Commonly builds nest at water's edge. Usually dabbles at water surface (in Idaho, known to skim aquatic plants and animals off surface). Usually feeds in pairs or small groups. Large concentrations can be seen at migration staging areas. An Idaho study suggested that avian and mammalian predators may significantly affect nest success in some wildlife management areas.
Important State References:
Gazda, R.J. 1994. Duck productivity and nest predation in southeastern Idaho. M.S. Thesis, Univ. of Montana, Missoula. 61pp.