Don Balke: Northern Shoveler
Artist: Don Balke
Churning about in tight circles, the Northern Shovelers scoop up mud and pond water with their broadened bills. Then, like prospectors panning for gold, the Northern Shovelers sift the mouthfuls. The "nugget" remains -- seeds, insects and tadpoles. While this bird takes more food from the pond bottom than any other dabbling duck, it is also a surface feeder. In addition, this interesting bird is an exceedingly active flier and rises quickly from the water. In general, it is a hardy bird and a late migrant in spring. It does not disappear from its wintering home in Louisiana until early May. During spring migrations, this bird flies in small flocks. Soon after their arrival on the breeding grounds, flocks spread out and break up into pairs or groups of three or four birds. The Northern Shoveler is generally a silent creature, but in courtship the male utters a guttural woh, woh, woh and the female returns a feeble quack. The bird's nest is often built in a grass and down-lined hollow on the high, dry ground of prairies. Within twenty-four hours after hatching, the young are led to the nearest water by their mother. At the first hint of autumn, the Northern Shoveler begins its fall migration. Even as early as August or early September, the Shoveler starts drifting southward. It is while en route to and from the nesting grounds that the Northern Shoveler is often spied in Iowa.
This painting originally appeared on the Fleetwood® Commemorative Cover for the Waterbirds of the 50 States Iowa/Northern Shoveler.
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