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Australasian Shoveler

Anas rhynchotis

female and male Australasian shovelers


Males of this species have variegated plumage, with a green speculum and light-blue upper wing coverts. The head is blue-gray, with a white vertical stripe between the eye and bill. It has a striking reddish-brown breast and the lower surface is brown, with an obvious white patch on the rear sides. Wings are blue in color, the legs are bright orange, and the bill is dark blue. Females are mottled, darkish brown with yellow-brown legs, pale brown head, and dark brown bill. Juveniles resemble females, but are more subdued in color.

Adults are 18-22 inches long, have a wingspan of 27-31 inches, and weigh 21-23 ounces.

Distribution and Habitat

A.r. rhynchotis is found in southwestern and southeastern Australia and on the island of Tasmania; A.r. variegata is found in New Zealand. Both subspecies prefer shallow fertile wetlands, especially still water ponds and lakes and slow-moving rivers and estuaries, but will also visit flooded pastures. They are rarely seen away from water.


During a period of courting in July and August, flocks with as many as 1,000 ducks gather on lakes, before going off to claim their breeding territory. Breeding takes place from October to January. The nest is constructed on the ground in an open grassy area close to water. Up to 11 eggs, which are cream-colored with blue tinge, are incubated solely by the female for about 25 days. The chicks fledge at 8-10 weeks.


Unlike other dabbling ducks that have adapted to pasture, the Australasian shoveler is unable to supplement its diet by grazing on grass. Shovelers swim with their bill submerged, sieving food from the water surface, and even through mud. The shoveler's sifting apparatus is very well developed with fine growths called lamellae on the edges of it's large wedge shaped bill, and bristles on its' tongue that sieve soft food. Its food is mainly freshwater invertebrates and the seeds of aquatic plants, but worms and insects are sometimes eaten in flooded pasture.

Other Information

The first duck to be acutely aware of hunting, the Australasian shoveler quickly goes to the open ocean when the shooting begins. Shovelers are the fastest flyers of all waterfowl, so their swift flight at the first sound of a shotgun helps their survival.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
subfamily Anatinae
genus & species Anas rhynchotis

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The Robinson Library >> Order Anseriformes

This page was last updated on August 31, 2018.