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Posts Tagged ‘migrating duck’

When I first saw this duck and his mate this week, I thought it was just another mallard couple. As I studied the male, though, I couldn’t help but notice his elongated black bill—it’s as plain as the nose on its face (wait a minute, duck don’t have noses). The female’s bill was similar in shape, but was orange in color. Not only are they long, their bills also seemed wider at the tip than at their bases, causing the ducks to look almost cartoonish.

Northern Shoveler

Using the duck’s distinctive bill as a search term, it was easy for me to discover that this duck is called a Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). Sometimes I am baffled by the names of species, but this time the reasoning behind the name was pretty obvious. Like the mallard, the Northern Shoveler is considered to be a “babbling duck.” It forages by swimming along with its bill lowered into the water, straining out small crustaceans and other invertebrates, and generally does not tip its head and upper body forward into the water, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Foraging Northern Shoveler

The Cornell Lab also notes that Northern Shoveler couple are monogamous and “remain together longer than pairs of other dabbling duck species.” Longer than other dabbling duck species? It makes me wonder about the divorce rate among dabbling ducks. Does “dabbling” refer to their mating habits as well as to their feeding habits? Do they stay together for the sake of the ducklings?

Northern Shoveler Couple

Speaking of ducklings, the Cornell Lab, which I highly recommend as a source of information about birds, includes the following bizarre and disgusting, yet strangely interesting factoid about this duck species, “When flushed off the nest, a female Northern Shoveler often defecates on its eggs, apparently to deter predators.” What a strange reaction.  With humans, flushing almost occurs after defecation, not before.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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