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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®- Northern Shovelers Pinwheeling

Air Date: Week of

Caption: This Northern Shoveler is standing up to be counted! (Photo: Tom Grey ©)

What goes around, comes around is how Northern Shovelers move about when they’re skimming the water for food. The behavior of these fine feathered ducks is described by Frank Corrado in our BirdNote®.


GELLERMAN: Over much of North America, skeins of geese and ducks are heading south down the flyways to warmer climes. But as the weather cools, some birds flock to wetlands and waters not so far away. Frank Corrado has this BirdNote®.


CORRADO: Autumn brings back many kinds of ducks to our lakes and ponds, but few are as instantly recognizable as the duck aptly named Northern Shoveler. The Northern Shoveler’s oversized, spoon-shaped bill helps it stand out in even the most crowded pond.

The Northern Shoveler uses its large bill to filter out food from the water’s surface. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)


CORRADO: And while it doesn’t actually use its bill to shovel, the Northern Shoveler’s extra-large bill has a very special function. Many ducks tip downward to feed, their heads submerged, their tails pointing to the sky. The shoveler, though, skims tiny plants and animals off the water’s surface. Holding its bill flat at the surface and moving its head side to side, the shoveler pulls water in at the tip of its bill, then filters out the edibles with the help of tiny comb-like structures on its tongue.

This Northern Shoveler is standing up to be counted!(Photo: Tom Grey ©)


CORRADO: And shovelers are social feeders. Picture dozens of shovelers feeding side-by-side as one: a feathered phalanx paddling and sweeping the surface, all the while rotating in a circular pattern across the pond. A pin-wheeling mass of feathers and bills, in shades of emerald-green, brown, and white.


GELLERMAN: That’s Frank Corrado for BirdNote®. You can see videos of Northern Shovelers at our website, L-O-E dot org. And while you’re online, flap on over to our Facebook page. It’s PRI’s Living on Earth.



BirdNote® Northern Shovelers Pinwheeling was written by Bob Sundstrom

Bird calls provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Mallards recorded by A. A. Allen. Northern Shoveler calls recorded by W.W.H. Gunn.


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