The shovelers are perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of all the dabbling ducks. The Northern Shoveler is the most widespread and abundant of the four distinct forms of shovelers. The other three species are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere 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 its 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 aviaries 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
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