Key facts

Scientific name: Anas clypeata

Status: Resident breeder and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 700 pairs

Wintering birds: 18,000

Conservation status: Green

Length: 44 – 52 cm

Wingspan: 70 – 85 cm

Weight: 400 – 1,000 g


In breeding plumage the adult male shoveler has a black back with white braces visible in flight. They have grey-blue shoulder patches and bright green speculums separated by a white stripe. Their primary flight feathers are brown and the uppertail is black. They have white breasts and bright chestnut bellies.

Male shovelers have dark green heads and necks, pale yellow or orange eyes, black bills and orange legs and webbed feet.

In eclipse plumage male shovelers are mottled brown with rust flanks and belly with a white streak in front of the eye.

Adult female shovelers look similar to males in eclipse plumage but with a blue wing patch. Her billi is brown with dark brown eyes and orange legs and feet. In eclipse plumage she is darker than the male.

Juvenile shovelers look similar to non-breeding females with less mottling on the upperparts and more streaks on the underparts.


Shovelers nest in single pairs or loose groups. The female builds the nest which is a shallow depression in short grass lined with down.

Shovelers lay 9-12 pale olive eggs which the female incubates for 21-27 days sometimes guarded by the male. Chicks leave the nest a few hours after hatching following the female to water. They are cared for by the female alone until they fledge 35-45 days after hatching.


In the winter shovelers eat mainly plant matter such as seeds, grasses, sedges and pondweeds. During summer they will eat aquatic insects and larvae, molluscs, crustaceans and sometimes small fish.


Where to see them

Shovelers can be seen all year round wherever there is water particularly in the south and east of England. In the winter large numbers gather at Ouse Washes, Rutland Water and Abberton Reservoir in Essex.


Todd Wilson/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Shovelers engage in elaborate courtship displays both on water and in the air and it is not unusual for over a dozen drakes to pursue a single hen.

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