Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Northern Shoveler

This female Northern Shoveler lost her way in October. She appeared at Quidi Vidi Lake and stayed until sometime in December. This large-billed duck does not belong in Newfoundland. Different field guides indicate that the Northern Shoveler may travel North but stop short of Maine. Other guides indicate a much more southern and western range. If the bird could only tell its story!

This duck is very easy to identify by its extremely large bill, bigger than its head. Yet, it blends in with the other ducks and is easy to miss. It is much smaller than the Black Ducks and Mallards. The male's coloring is much brighter and more distinctive.

In previous posts, I have talked about diving ducks and dabbling ducks. The Northern Shoveler is neither of these; it is a skimming duck. It will feed by skimming across the water and filtering plant and animal life from the water. This behaviour helps to separate it from the other ducks in the pond.

I am issuing an APB on this little bird. Where did it go in the height of Winter? Did it leave the island? Did it find a mate? Sometimes you may notice a tag with a number on a bird. If possible, take a picture and report the sighting. These reports help in the tracking of the movement of unusual birds.
There was recently a Ring-billed Gull found at QV with a numbered tag. It is known that Cornell University undertook a tagging program a few years back. The number was reported to the project and a documented history of that bird was provided. It was amazing! It had been in the Northeast U.S., other places and back to Newfoundland at least twice. It is this kind of information that helps scientists do their work.

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