(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 red shoveler.
The red shoveler, or Anas platalea, is found in the southern half of South America. Its habitat extends from Chile, across Argentina, southern Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. It is sometimes called the Argentine red shoveler, as this is where it is most frequently found, or the South American shoveler. They favor shallow lakes, pools with thick reed beds, lagoons, and marshes. During the southern winter, Tierra del Fuego populations migrate as far as Peru and southern central Brazil.
It is regarded as the least awkward of the four shoveler species, and has a smaller bill and long pointy tail. Wing colors are similar to the northern shoveler. Its legs are yellow to orange. Males and females can be distinguished by their different bills size and their colorings. The female has a larger and darker bill than the male. Females are brownish gray, with plain face and dark eyes. The male is red to pink, with spots on its chest and sides. Its head and neck are grayish brown and it has white eyes.
Average size of the red shoveler is 18 to 22 inches and its weight is about 1.2 to 1.3 pounds. Its diet consists of grasses, herbs, weeds, and algae. They will filter plankton and invertebrates from water and sometimes mud. It will dabble and up-end but won’t dive. These ducks breed in pairs or in small groups. The female has five to eight eggs, incubating them for 25 to 26 days. The young can fly after about 40 to 45 days. Sexual maturity takes one to two years. Their average life span is 20 to 30 years. It is not listed as a threatened species.