(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 Australasian shoveler.
The Australasian shoveler, or Anas rhynchotis, is found mainly in south-east and eastern Australia, including Tasmania, Victoria, eastern South Australia, New South Wales and into Queensland, although numbers thin out in the north. It also lives in south-west Western Australia. The bird is found in New Zealand too, where it is sometimes called the New Zealand shoveler. Its habitat includes a variety of wetlands, especially heavily vegetated swamps, as well as open waters and occasionally coastal areas.
These ducks have a large head with a low forehead and heavy shovel-tipped beak. Length is around 20 inches and weight is about 1.4 pounds. In breeding season, the male’s head is grey-blue. It has a white crescent between its yellow eyes and its bill. Its back and rump are black. The wing coverts are a blue-gray with white bars. Its underneath is a chestnut color. At other times of the year, the male is duller. Females have mottled brown back and sides, and chestnut underneath. They have dark brown eyes. The male makes a “toot toot” sound, whereas the female gives a husky quack.
They are dispersive but their movements are not well documented. Like other shoveler species, it uses the groves around the edges of its bill to separate water from its food, which includes crustaceans, insects, and aquatic plants. The Australasian shoveler breeds at nearly any time of the year. They usually nest in thick vegetation on the ground, but sometimes in a tree hollow or on a stump. Clutch size is from nine to eleven eggs and incubation takes 25 days. Conservation status is “secure” at the federal level and in most states, “vulnerable” in Victoria, and “rare” in South Australia.