Thursday, December 29, 2016

Northern Shoveler

Winter in the Great Central Valley is the time to visit our beautiful National Wildlife Refuges.  The wetlands are full of life, providing just a glimpse of the biodiversity this area used to support.  Winter days are crisp, clear and sunny - or they at least have the potential to be, once the fog burns off - and dusk falls early, allowing naturalists to hear owls call and watch flocks of waterfowl settle in for the night, all before supper! 

Our local wetlands are bursting with avian life at this time of year: Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, American White Pelicans, geese like you've never seen before (Snow and Ross's Geese, Canada and Cackling Geese, as well as Greater White-fronted Geese) and more ducks than you'll know what to do with! 
One of the most abundant species of duck, and surely one you will encounter on any wetlands visit this winter, is the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).  Learn this duck, and you'll be well on your way to identifying a large proportion of our local waterfowl. 
The Northern Shoveler is so named for its large, dark, shovel-shaped bill, a wonderfully obvious key to its identification.  In addition to the large bill, look for the male Northern Shoeveler's dark green head, gold eyes, bright white chest and reddish sides.
Northern Shovelers are dabbling ducks, using their spoon or shovel-like bill to strain food particles from the water.  They feed on plant matter and seeds, as well as small aquatic invertebrates.

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