Sunday, 25 February 2024

Abundance of Northern Shovelers visit county

Northern Shovelers on Borax Lake Thursday. Photo by Leona Butts.


LAKE COUNTY – While birdwatching at Borax Lake on Country Club Drive near Clearlake Thursday afternoon I saw American Coots in great numbers, some Mallards, a few Buffleheads, maybe some grebes mixed in, but predominantly Northern Shovelers.

Shown above is a photo of Northern Shovelers. I couldn't get very close as the birds would then fly.

We We hadn't taken our scope with us so it was hard to make sure of what was in the large groups. The lake is low so the shoreline was not close to the road.

This is the first time we had seen so many Northern Shovelers. Many hundreds of shovelers were feeding and displaying their unusual feeding habits as explained in tidbit below.

If you have not seen this, you may want to drive out to Borax Lake. The road is rough, but it is worth the drive. There were several much larger groups than what are shown in the photo feeding in the pinwheel fashion. The rotation was very apparent and you could watch birds from a distance swim to the pin-wheel and join in.


Wing spread: 31 inches

Body length: 19 inches

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Description: Shovelers are a medium-sized duck with a distinctive large bill. From late fall through spring,males have a glossy green head, white chest and chestnut sides. Females are a drab brownish gray. Both sexes have a blue wing patch, and glossy green speculum with white bars. Its wings are identical to blue-winged teal, except larger.

Nesting habitat: Typically nests in tall undisturbed grass cover.

Clutch size: 10 eggs

Incubation period: 24 days

Status in North Dakota: The northern shoveler is common during migration and nesting seasons in North Dakota.

Food habits: Shovelers feed on plankton, fingernail clams and aquatic insects.

Tidbit: Shovelers have the most unusual feeding habits of any duck. At times, tight groups of several dozen birds will rotate in a pinwheel fashion, stirring up the surface water.



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