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(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)

The shoveler consists of four species of ducks known as dabbling ducks, which are recognized by their long, broad, flat beaks. Their legs are closer together than other ducks. They are good walkers and strong fliers. They feed on vegetable matter on the surface of water bodies, or by grazing, and rarely dive, thus the name dabbling duck. The four species of shoveler are the northern shoveler, the red shoveler, the Cape shoveler, and the Australasian shoveler. This article looks at the Cape shoveler.

The Cape shoveler, or Anas smithii, is resident mainly in South Africa. It can also be found in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, southern parts of Angola and Zambia, and even into Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi, and Malawi. It lives in wetlands, lakes, ponds, marshes and estuaries.

It is a large grey-brown duck and has a large flat bill. The adult male is dark brown, with greenish-black upper tail feathers and rump. Its upper wings are greyish-blue with white tips. While its primary flight feathers are dark brown, its secondaries are a metallic blue-green. It has a yellow head, eyes and neck. Legs and feet are orange-yellow. The female’s colors are duller than those of the male. Its eyes are dark brown, and legs and feet are a grayish-yellow. The young have similar coloring to the females. It averages 20 to 21 inches in height and weighs 1.3 to 1.5 pounds.

Cape shoveler eats aquatic invertebrates, including molluscs, crustaceans, tadpoles, and insects, by dabbling in shallow water. It will occasionally eat aquatic plants and seeds. The birds are sociable and live as pairs or in small groups. They build their nests in depressions on the ground, liking dense vegetation and being near water. Nests are lined with grass and may be close together. They breed all year round but mainly in summer. The population is large, although some decline has been observed. Their conservation status is “least concern”.