The shovelers are perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of all the dabbling ducks. The Northern Shoveler is the most widespead and abundant of the four disticnt forms of shovelers. The other three species are found exclusively in the Southern Hemishere and all presumably descend from the Northern species. The large spoon shaped bill of the shoveler is equipped with lamellae, comb-like teeth that act as filters. With movements of it's bill through the surface of water the shoveler takes in water and sieves out minute particles of food. The drake in breeding plumage has a bright iridescent green head , bold white breast, and chestnut sides. As with all species of shovelers he also has yellow eyes, and orange or yellowish legs.
Northern Shovelers are commonly kept in aviary's though they are more delicate than some of the more common ducks. They are not aggressive and can be kept with other species. They can breed their first year, but often do not breed until their second Spring. These birds prefer to nest in natural cover, and may not nest at all in the absence of tall grasses. Clutches consist of 6-12 eggs and are incubated for about 24 days. The bills of the ducklings are normally sized and shaped , but will soon change to the distinctive shoveler shape. The ducklings are not difficult to raise, and are fully feathered in about 45 days
The Argentina Red Shoveler is a native to South America, it's most distinctive feature as with all shovelers is it's large spatulate bill. Like the other species of shoveler the drakes have a bright blue wing patch, that is most evident in flight. Red Shoveler drakes are mostly chestnut in color,and spotted with black over the flanks, chest and back. The head is a lighter shade of brown and lacks the black spotting. The female is more dab and relatively plain, and is much like other shoveler hens.
These birds are not aggressive, and can get along with other species, they are first year fertile but most will not lay until they are two years of age. They prefer natural cover such as tall grass for nesting, some may accept nest boxes. Clutches consist of 5-8 eggs and are incubated for about 25 days. The ducklings are not difficult to raise.
The New Zealand Shoveler is a subspecies of the Australian Shoveler, the main difference between the two is the slightly brighter breeding plumage and a more distinct facial crescent of the New Zealand variety. The criteria for separation is somewhat objective and racial distinction may not be justified.
Sex of juveniles can be distinguished by eye color. Juvenile males will start with a dark brown eye, becoming light grey-brown at six to eight weeks and then turning yellow at about four months of age. Juvenile females will retain dark brown eyes.
Most research that I have done on this species list them as unsuitable for the beginner and difficult to keep and breed in capitivity. I however, disagree and have found these birds less challenging than their northern cousins. They are not aggressive and get along with other species. Most of my birds have bred at one year of age, and will accept nest boxes, an open front triangle shaped box has worked well for my birds. They also like to nest in tall grass. Clutches consist of 6-10 oval shaped eggs and they are incubated for about 25 days. The ducklings are cared for in the same way as other species of dabbling ducks, they are not difficult to raise. Like other species of shovelers they do not aquire their shoveler shaped bill until they are about two weeks of age.