Northern Shoveler

Anas clypeata

Perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of the dabbling ducks, the Northern Shoveler inhabits wetlands across much of North America. Its elongated, spoon-shaped bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out food from the water.

Interesting Information

  • The bill of the Northern Shoveler is about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) long. The bill has has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges, for straining food from water.

  • Northern Shoveler pairs are monogamous, and remain together longer than pairs of other dabbling duck species.

  • When flushed off the nest, a female Northern Shoveler often defecates on its eggs, apparently to deter predators.


Adult Description

  • Size: 44-51 cm (17-20 in)

  • Weight: 400-820 g (14.12-28.95 ounces)

  • Medium-sized duck.

  • Very long bill, wider at tip than at base.

  • Male with iridescent green head, white chest, and rusty sides.

  • Top of wing with a large light blue patch near the front and a line of green feathers along the rear.

  • White under the wings.

  • Legs orange.

Sex Differences


Breeding (Alternate) Plumage

Head dark glossy green. Bill black. Back black. Chest white. Flanks and belly chestnut-brown. Eyes yellow.

Eclipse (Basic) Plumage

Duller. Head and breast brownish black speckled with whitish or tan. Back black with tan feather edges. Flanks light brown. May show indistinct white crescent on face behind bill. Eyes yellow.


Grayish-brown overall; some feathers have light edging with darker centers. Bill olive-green with yellowish base and edges. Eyes brown.


Similar to adult female.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Breeds in open, shallow wetlands. In winter, inhabits both freshwater and saline marshes.


Forages by swimming along with bill lowered into the water, straining out small crustaceans and other invertebrates. It does not commonly tip its head and upper body forward into the water.


Small swimming invertebrates and some seeds.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
    Subfamily: Anserinae
Genus: Anas
Species: Anas clypeata

Similar Species

  • Mallard has chestnut chest and pale flanks, as well as a smaller greenish yellow bill.

  • Blue-winged Teal and Cinnamon Teal have similar wing pattern in all plumages, but are smaller with much smaller bills.

  • Adult female and immature Northern Shoveler distantly resemble females and immatures of other duck species, but are easily distinguished by their very long bills.

Bird Sound

Male gives a nasal bray in fall courtship. Female makes various quacks. Also makes a rattling noise, unique among dabbling ducks, upon taking flight.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution