Today’s science Sunday post is brought to you by the migrating northern shoveler (Anas clypeata).
I saw several of these ducks over the weekend while I was walking at Boomer Lake, and was able to get decent pictures of them today. These birds winter in the southern states (especially along the coasts), migrate through the Midwest and summer in the northern states and up into Canada and Alaska. Theses ducks can also be found throughout Europe and Asia (as they breed in the northern areas), and they winter south of the border (where it’s warm—southern Europe, Africa, India, southeast Asia, Central & northern South America).
Though it is hard to tell from the picture, but those dark heads on the ducks with the white bodies are actually a green color. I didn’t have my large zoom lense on me to really get a close up picture of them. But you can see the red patch on the sides of the four males—all of which are trying to court the same female duck for the year.
Some cool facts about the northern shoveler:
Their bills are big (~2.5 inches long) and shaped like a shovel (hence the name). The bill also contains fine hair projections all along the edges that act as a sieve, allowing them to filter out tiny crustaceans, aquatic invertebrates, and seeds from the water.
They are yearly monogamous birds. They form bonds on the wintering grounds and then stay together until it’s time to return to the wintering grounds.
There is usually a clutch of 9-12 eggs that are overseen by the female only for about three to four weeks. The mother will lead them to the water and keep them close to cover of the marsh vegetation, and the young are capable of flight somewhere between fifty-two and sixty days after hatching.