Bird Quiz: Northern Shoveler

Bird Quiz: Northern Shoveler

Michele Berger
Published: 03/13/2012

A male Northern shoveler. Photo: USFWS

Such crazy-looking birds, those Northern shovelers. If you’ve ever seen them (or even just a picture), you’ll understand how they got their apt names. I came across a flock of them hanging out on a pond in Central Park. The bird became my species for day 27 of the Bird-a-Day challenge. (Several of us magazine editors are still going. I hit the 6-week mark today; one editor completed week 10!)

But back to the matter at hand, the shovelers. How much do you know about these ducks? Take our quiz below to determine your bird ID. Scroll past the picture below for the answers. Check in with The Perch every Friday for a recap of the BAD challenge. And if you’re tweeting about it, remember to use the #birdaday hashtag.

1. True or False: A Northern shoveler’s bill is wider at the tip than the base.

2. What kind of food does this dabbling duck eat?
a. Small crustaceans
b. Seaweed
c. Some seeds
d. A and B
e. A and C

3. How much time can shovelers spend foraging during a single day?
a. More than three-quarters
b. About half
c. A quarter of the day
d. A few minutes here and there

4. True or False: Female shovelers defecate on their eggs.

5. What color eggs do Northern shovelers lay?
a. Purple
b. Olive green
c. Speckled blue
d. White with brown spots


Several shovelers and a bunch of shore birds. Photo: USFWS

Answers
1. True or False: The Northern shovelers’ bill is wider at the tip than the base.
True.
“The bill of the Northern shoveler is about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) long,” according to Cornell’s All About Birds. “The bill has about 110 fine projections called lamellae along the edges, for straining food from water.” It’s like a built-in sieve. Cool!

2. What kind of food does this dabbling duck eat?
E, small crustaceans and some seeds.
Want more specifics? “Seeds of sedges, bulrushes, saw grass, smartweeds, pondweeds, algae, and duckweeds, as well as aquatic insects, mollusks, and crustaceans,” so says the Ducks Unlimited species profile.

3. How much time can shovelers spend foraging in a single day?
A, more than three-quarters of the day.
Believe it or not, these birds can spend up to 84% of one day eating. Of course, the percent of time spent foraging depends on season and weather conditions. For instance, females eat more when breeding, and both sexes tend to feed more during early winter than late winter, according to Birds of North America online.

4. True or False: Female shovelers defecate on their eggs.
True.
Though the exact reason for this exercise isn’t known, Birds of North America online suggests it’s likely an act of motherly protection. After all, the females are often single parents, raising the chicks alone, leading the brood “from one wetland or pond to another.” Why not let predators know who is boss early on?

5. What color eggs do Northern shovelers lay?
B, Olive green.
Actually, the eggs can range in hue from pale olive-buff to pale green-gray. Sometimes dirt makes them darker throughout incubation, according to Birds of North America online. The nest, which can hold up to a dozen eggs per clutch, is usually “a simple scrape lined with down and usually surrounded on at least three sides by vegetation,” says the All About Birds profile.