Spatula clypeata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae
This familiar duck, with its large 'spade-like' bill, is a relatively scarce and localised breeder. Winter numbers are swelled by the arrival of wintering birds from further east.
The Shoveler is a rather specialized feeder, as its broad bill might suggest, feeding on zooplankton. One consequence of this is that Shoveler tend to favour more ephemeral waterbodies where potential competitors (e.g. fish) cannot survive.
Wintering individuals include birds from the breeding populations that extend from eastern Fennoscandia and the Baltic to western Russia, though many of these move further south into France and Spain, as do some individuals from our own breeding population.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Shoveler
Shoveler identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Shoveler.
Ducks are usually easy to identify, but the females can be more challenging. Many of our familiar dabbling ducks have subtly-plumaged brown females which, on first glance, appear similar. This workshop will help you tell them apart with confidence.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Shoveler, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses
Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.Browse training courses
Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Shoveler is predominantly a winter visitor to the UK but also has a widespread but localised breeding population with strongholds in East Anglia and Yorkshire and a five-year mean of 1,241 pairs during 2015–2019 (Eaton et al. 2021). There has been little change in the number of occupied 10-km squares since the 1968–72 Atlas, with losses offset by gains (Balmer et al. 2013). The recent trend is uncertain as it has only been an RBBP species since 2006 and, although numbers have increased during that period, it is unclear whether this increase is genuine or if it is due simply to increased observer effort and reporting (Eaton et al. 2021).
|UK winter population||+53% increase (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
Shovelers are present mainly in lowland areas, favouring a range of inland wetland sites and some coastal estuaries. They are most widely distributed and abundant in parts of southern Britain and in mid-western Ireland, as well as in parts of the Western and Northern Isles. Shovelers are relatively scarce and local breeders in Britain & Ireland, with breeding concentrated along low-lying floodplains and associated wetlands.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||525|
|% occupied in breeding season||17|
|No. occupied in winter||1086|
|% occupied in winter||36|
European Distribution Map
Accompanying an increase in winter population size, Shoveler range size has increased by 36% since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas, and the majority of these gains have been in Britain, most notably in Orkney.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||-3%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+40.2%|
Shovelers are most often seen in autumn and winter though can be seen in the breeding season at suitable breeding sites.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.
Lifecycle and body size information about Shoveler, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||22 years 7 months 24 days (set in 2009)|
|Typical Lifespan||3 years with breeding typically at 1 year|
|Adult Survival||0.58±0.03 ( Female: 0.58±0.03)|
|Juvenile Survival||0.38 (in first year)|
|Field Codes||2-letter: SV | 5-letter code: SHOVE | Euring: 1940|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Shoveler from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The trend for the breeding population is uncertain and hence the drivers of change are also unclear.
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