Want to Meet the Spoon Duck? Find out all about him here

The Spoon-billed Duck is a bird that is constantly traveling through different regions, where in America they are resident during the breeding season. In the following article we will know a little more about this species of duck, how it feeds, what is its food, where they are located and much more.

The Spoon-billed Duck

The Spoon-billed Duck, also called Spoon-billed Spoonbill, is known simply in Britain as the Spoon-billed Duck, which is a common and widespread duck. It breeds in northern parts of Europe and Asia and most of North America, and is found wintering in southern Europe, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and central and northern South America.

It is a rare vagrant bird of Australia. In North America, it tends to breed along the southern edge of Hudson Bay and also west of this body of water, and as far south as the Great Lakes west of Colorado, located in Nevada and in Oregon.

The Northern Shoveler is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. The conservation status of this bird is Least Concern.


The Northern Shoveler Duck was first formally described by the famous Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae. He introduced the binomial name Anas clypeata. A molecular phylogenetic study that was performed tending to compare mitochondrial DNA sequences published in 2009 found that the genus Anas, as defined below, was not monophyletic.

This genus was later divided into 4 monophyletic genera with 10 different species, including the northern shoveler, which was transferred to the resurrected spoonbill genus. This genus was originally proposed by the famous German zoologist Friedrich Boie in 1822. The name of the spoonbill is derived from the Latin for a “spoon” or “spatula”. The specific epithet came to be derived from the Latin clypeata, meaning “shield-bearer” from clypeus, “shield”.


This species of bird is unmistakable in northern hemisphere areas because of its large and distinctive spatulate bill. The brooding duck has an iridescent dark green head, white breast and chestnut belly and flanks. In flight, the light blue forehead feathers are revealed, separated from the green speculum by a white border. Early in the fall season, the male will have a white crescent on each side of the face. In non-breeding plumage i.e. eclipse, the drake closely resembles that of the female.

What the female looks like

The female Spoon-legged Spoonbills are a mottled grayish-brown color like other specimens, with plumage which is very similar to a female mallard, but these tend to be easily distinguished by the distinctive long, broad bill, which is gray tinged with orange on the ridge and lower mandible. The front of the female is a gray color. They are usually about 48 cm long and have a wingspan of 76 cm with a weight of 600 kg. Find out all about the Mallard .


Northern shovelers come to feed by foraging on plants, often in such a way that they swing their bill from side to side and use the bill to drain food from the water. They also use their highly specialized bill, from which their name is derived, to forage for aquatic invertebrates, a carnivorous diet.

Its broad beak is equipped with a well-developed lamellae species, with small comb-like structures on the edge of the beak that act as sieves, allowing the birds to skim crustaceans and plankton from the surface of the water.

This adaptation, more specialized in the Shoveler Ducks, gives them an advantage over the other puddles, with which they do not have to compete in such a way for food resources for most of the time in the year. Therefore, mud-bottomed marshes, which are rich in invertebrates, are their preferred habitat of choice.

Shovelers tend to prefer nesting in grassy areas away from the open sea. Their nest is a kind of shallow depression in the ground, which is lined with plant material and down. Females usually lay about 9 eggs. Males are very territorial during the breeding season and will always defend their territory and mates from other competing males.

So-called drakes also tend to engage in elaborate courtship behaviors, both in the water and in the air; it is not at all uncommon for 1 dozen or more males to tend to seek out 1 or the same female. Despite their robust appearance, Shoveler Ducks are agile fliers.


This is a bird species of open wetlands, such as wet meadows or marshes with emergent vegetation. They tend to breed in large areas of Eurasia, in western North America and in the Great Lakes region of the United States. This bird tends to winter in:

Those that tend to winter in the Indian subcontinent tend to make the strenuous journey over the Himalayas, often taking a few breaks in the wetlands just south of the Himalayas before proceeding further south to warmer regions. In North America, these same winter southward along a line from Washington to Idaho and from New Mexico eastward into Kentucky, also along the eastern seaboard as far north as Massachusetts.

In the British Isles, home to more than 20% of the northwestern European population of this species, it is best known as winter visitors, although it is seen much more frequently in southern and eastern England, especially around the Ouse Washes, the Humber and North Kent Marshes, and in much smaller groups in the Scottish regions and western parts of England.

In the winter seasons, breeding birds usually move in a southerly direction and are replaced by an influx of continental birds from the north.It breeds in most regions of Ireland, however the population is very difficult to assess.


As for the reproduction of the Spoon-billed Duck species, it usually takes place from April to June. The nests are built on land near fresh water and are constructed with natural materials such as grasses and are lined with feathers.

The female is the one who builds the nest forming a neat cup by turning her body on the ground. She herself lays between 9 and 11 eggs per season. The eggs are olive in color and are approximately 5.2 x 3.7 cm in size. Incubation by the female alone begins immediately after all the eggs are laid and can last between 23 and 25 days in the incubation process. Learn in this article all about the Domestic Duck .

In the case of the male, he loses interest shortly after incubation begins. Ducklings hatch early and begin to follow the breast almost immediately. Feeding and location practices are learned during this time. The young can fly after 40 to 45 days and are then independent birds.

Feeding Habits

A Northern Shoveler tends to feed mainly in a way that consists of drawing water into its bill and then pumping it sideways with its tongue, filtering out tiny particles of food with the long, comb-like blades that line the edge of its bill.

These particles consist mainly of small crustaceans, mollusks, insects and their larvae, as well as seeds and pieces of leaves and plant stems. Apart from food particles, they also tend to eat water beetles, small fish and snails.

Social feeding is very common among this species. Shoveler Ducks are very attracted to feeding areas by the other birds feeding in an area. Shoveler ducks take advantage of food particles that other birds swimming or wading in the area stir up on the surface and leave behind. Individual birds may swim in a tight circle to create a sort of whirlpool that causes the food to surface on its own. (see article: (tixagag_16) Wild Duck ).

Interesting facts

Here are some 5 interesting facts about this type of bird called the Spoon-billed Duck


  • The Northern Shoveler’s beak is large, about 6.35 cm long and has a spade shape, but that beak also has about 110 fine projections which are called lamellae that are located along the edges that act as a kind of strainer, filtering small crustaceans, seeds and aquatic invertebrates from the water.
  • Shoveler ducks are monogamous birds and tend to stay together longer than pairs of most other ducks. They form bonds on wintering grounds and stay together until just before fall migration.
  • When flushed from the nest, a female Shoveler often defecates in her eggs, apparently believed to be to deter predators.
  • Shoveler Ducks do not occur only in the Americas, but also breed in regions of Europe and winter in Europe, Africa and India.
  • The oldest recorded male Shoveler Duck was at least 16 years, 7 months old when it was found in the Nevada region.


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