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.
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.
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.
genus & species Anas rhynchotis
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