One of my favorite ducks is the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). Something about their namesake, absurdly long, shovel-like bills, elegant plumage, and cool vocalizations make me want to see them on every birding excursion. Or maybe it is their clever methods of eating, whether straining the water with their bills or swimming in circles in groups to bring food to the surface. They are like Mallards, but cool Mallards, Mallards you’d want to hang out with.

Alas, in New York it is not so easy to see shovelers often as they tend to move through the upstate region rather quickly in migration, though some do linger in the southern portions of the state. On my winter visits to California, however, they are in almost every location that holds water. They are not so cooperative as some ducks there and do not come in as close for pictures. Nonetheless, I got some decent shots, so here, without further ado, is my brief photographic tribute to Northern Shovelers.

male Northern Shoveler

male Northern Shoveler at the Wild Animal Park

female Northern Shoveler

female Northern Shoveler at the Wild Animal Park

molting male Northern Shoveler

molting male shoveler landing at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine, CA

Northern Shoveler pair

pair of shovelers at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine, CA

pair of shovelers circling for food

pair of shovelers circling for food at Meadows Park, Temecula, CA

For more information about these exceptionally cool ducks click here, here, or here.

Oh, and Charlie has kindly shared one more gorgeous shot for the road…

flying male Northern Shoveler

flying male Northern Shoveler, San Francisco, CA

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.