Sunday, January 11, 2009

Northern Shovelers Feeding Cooperatively

Northern Shovelers in a cooperative feeding group at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary .

I decided to go out birding today and finally settled on San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary . I started in the Butterfly Garden and went along the cement barriers to the first pond. As I walked out to the fourth pond, I saw a large group of Northern Shovelers swirling round and round in a circle. This is not a behavior I have seen much about on the web, but I often see one or two whirling about in a circle out at Huntington Central Park or here at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Whirling about, they were packed so tight at times it was hard to see where one duck ended and another began.

They whirled for quite a long time.

There were males and females and some males in what looked like the end of eclipse plumage. They may have just been dirty. Northern Shovelers often get mud all over their heads.

Some stayed at the fringes. Also at the fringes were an American Avocet or two and a few Eared Grebes.

I thought I might have seen a female Blue-winged Teal or two, but some of the females had very dark bills and some seemed to have broken eye rings even though they were obvious Northern Shovelers. I wonder if a few were hybrids.

Check out the video above to see them in action.

Northern Shoveler--Anas clypeata from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.

Here is a clearer view of the Northern Shoveler. So when you are out birding in Orange County and see ducks swirling in a circle, you are most likely seeing Northern Shovelers.

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Rick said...

Neat behavior, isn't it? It's technically called "pinwheeling," one of my favorite bird words.
Are you certain that your 'hybrid' Anas weren't just m a l e Shovelers still in their drab alternate plumage?
All the best,

Orange County Birder Girl said...

Thanks for your comment, Rick. "Pinwheeling" is a great word. New one for me. Not really certain about the hybrids. Don't know if there were any hybrids--three other possibilities occur to me. 1) male Northern Shovelers in eclipse plumage, 2) Muddy male Northern Shovelers, or 3) slightly muddy female Norther Shovelers. I am examining the numerous pictures and videos I took. The thing that makes me think maybe there were either female blue-winged teals or Nothern Shoveler x Blue-winged Teal hybrids is the broken eyeringon some of the ducks and that they had no shadowy crescent like the Northern Shoveler's eclipse plumage. Neither male nor female Norther Shoveler have an eye ring, but the female Blue-winged Teal has a broken eye ring. Northern Shovelers and Blue-winged Teal hybrids have been mentioned in literature and on the web. So I don't know, but I am looking in the crowds of Shovelers to see what's there. Thanks again for your great comment, Rick. I learned a new word!