During the non-breeding season Northern Shovelers are not as territorial as they are during the breeding season and there are times here in Utah that I see huge rafts of Northern Shovelers out on the water at Farmington Bay and on the Great Salt Lake from the causeway to Antelope Island. In those rafts the numbers of individual shovelers can be in the hundreds to thousands.
During the winter I often see them feeding as a group near the second bridge on the causeway to Antelope Island and occasionally I see them spinning either clockwise or counter clockwise in a tight group which then forms a whirlpool effect that brings the food to the center of the flock. It is interesting to see this whirlpool effect of Northern Shovelers on the surface of the Great Salt Lake and to hear the sounds of their bills dabbling in the water. I photographed this “whirlpool” of shovelers last week from the causeway to the island because I wanted to capture this feeding behavior.
The shovelers may be feeding on plankton in the lake or they might be feeding on the eggs of the brine shrimp. I can’t be certain and I’d rather say I don’t know than speculate without the facts.
Northern Shovelers are dabbling ducks with large, elongated, spatulated bills that have comblike structures called lamellae along the lateral sides of their bills that are used to strain their food from the water. In this image of a hen Northern Shoveler photographed at Farmington Bay WMA the black comblike lamellae can be seen on the side of her bill. It is more difficult to see the lamellae of the males because their bills are as dark as the lamellae.
Life is good. Life is better with birds.