Northern Shoveler

Migratory birds are a mesmerizing and astonishing aspect of nature that never ceases to amaze us. These remarkable creatures embark on incredible odysseys, spanning thousands of miles annually, between their breeding grounds in the north and wintering grounds in the south. Their epic migrations are a testament to their remarkable adaptations and the formidable obstacles they overcome in an ever-changing world. From the tiniest songbirds to the mightiest raptors, migratory birds exhibit a vast array of shapes and sizes, and their movements are an indispensable part of numerous ecosystems worldwide.

Amidst the tranquil waters of wetlands and marshes, a unique waterbird can be seen gliding gracefully with its signature beak. The Northern Shoveler, a dabbler among ducks, is a true gem of the avian world. Its name befits its extraordinary physical attribute: a beak that looks like it was borrowed from a garden shovel. But the Northern Shoveler is much more than just its beak. With its striking plumage and dapper demeanor, it stands out among its feathered peers. Join me in exploring the captivating world of this elegant waterbird.

Bird CharacteristicDescription
Common NameNorthern Shoveler
Scientific NameSpatula clypeata
Colour(s)Brown and white plumage with a distinctive shovel-shaped bill
Average Length43-51 cm
Average Height37-42 cm
Weight400-600 g
Type of BirdWetlands
Origin Country(ies)Europe, Asia, North America
Month it comes to IndiaOctober
Location in IndiaKeoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan
IUCN statusLeast Concern


The Northern Shoveler is a medium-sized species of duck found across the Northern Hemisphere. One of the most distinctive features of this bird is its spoon-shaped bill, which it uses to filter small aquatic creatures from the water. This unique adaptation is the result of evolution, allowing the Northern Shoveler to thrive in wetland habitats.

Standing at around 45-56 centimeters (18-22 inches) tall, the Northern Shoveler is not particularly large, but it is a sturdy and agile bird. Adult males typically weigh around 450-800 grams (1-2 pounds), while females weigh around 400-600 grams (0.8-1.3 pounds). Despite their relatively small size, Northern Shovelers are known for their long-distance migratory behavior, traveling thousands of miles each year to breed and feed.

In addition to their distinctive bill, Northern Shovelers are easily recognizable by their colorful plumage. Males have a vibrant green head and chestnut-brown sides, while females are mottled brown with a paler underbelly. Both sexes have a bright blue patch on their wings, which is visible when they are in flight. The Northern Shoveler also has a relatively long tail compared to other duck species, which adds to its sleek and elegant appearance.

When in flight, the Northern Shoveler spreads its wings wide, displaying an impressive wingspan of around 74-88 centimeters (29-35 inches). Although not particularly fast, with a top speed of around 48 kilometers (30 miles) per hour, the Northern Shoveler is a skilled and maneuverable flier, able to navigate the complex terrain of wetland habitats with ease.

Habitat and Food

The Northern Shoveler is a waterfowl species that is found in a range of wetland habitats in the northern hemisphere. During the breeding season, they typically inhabit shallow wetlands with abundant vegetation and food resources. They may nest in marshes, swamps, and ponds.

In the non-breeding season, Northern Shovelers migrate to warmer regions, including wetlands in India, where they can find suitable feeding and resting habitats. They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including lakes, marshes, and other shallow water bodies.

Northern Shovelers are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of aquatic plants, invertebrates, and small fish. They are unique in their feeding behavior, using their broad, spatula-shaped bill to filter out food particles from the water. They may also use their bill to scrape and upend underwater vegetation to access food.


The Northern Shoveler is a migratory bird species that breeds in the northern hemisphere and travels to various regions of the world during the non-breeding season. In India, the Northern Shoveler is a winter visitor, arriving in the country between October and March.

The Northern Shoveler is known to breed in the Arctic tundra of Eurasia and North America, with some populations breeding in the taiga forests of Siberia. After the breeding season, they migrate southward to warmer regions, including India, in search of suitable wetland habitats with abundant food resources.

In India, the Northern Shoveler can be found in a range of wetland habitats, including lakes, marshes, and other shallow water bodies. Some of the states and regions where they are commonly seen include Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

The primary purpose of the Northern Shoveler’s migration to India is to find suitable wetland habitats for feeding and resting during the non-breeding season. They are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of aquatic plants, invertebrates, and small fish. The wetlands of India provide an important wintering ground for the Northern Shoveler, along with other migratory waterfowl species.

The Northern Shoveler typically leaves India between February and April, as they return to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra. Overall, the migration of the Northern Shoveler to India is an important ecological phenomenon that highlights the connectivity of different regions of the world and the critical role of wetland habitats in supporting migratory bird species.

IUCN Status

The Northern Shoveler is a species of least concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population of this species is considered to be stable, and they have a wide distribution range across the northern hemisphere.

However, like many waterfowl species, the Northern Shoveler faces threats from habitat loss and degradation due to human activities, such as agriculture and urban development. Wetland habitats are also under threat from climate change, pollution, and invasive species.

Conservation efforts are critical to ensure the long-term survival of the Northern Shoveler and other wetland-dependent species. These efforts include habitat restoration and protection, as well as monitoring of populations and migration patterns. International agreements, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, also play an important role in protecting wetland habitats and the species that depend on them.

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