Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Ben Bailey

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the northern shoveler.
Often seen as a winter resident in ponds and small lakes in southwestern
Colorado, the northern shoveler is a hardy and unique dabbling duck, complete with a distinctly and disproportionately big spatulate bill. Filtering the surface of water with their comb-like bill, these medium-sized ducks feed with relative ease on crustaceans and small aquatic macroinvertebrates. When in great numbers, they will swim in a circular pattern, flushing out food.
The male has an iridescent head for the majority of the year. Viewed in low or flat light, the head sometimes appears dark or even purple. As they near breeding plumage in springtime, the head becomes noticeably greener. Oftentimes, when approaching, one may notice the bright white of the males’ breasts when tipped in a dabbling position. This white is encased by rufous brown on the flanks and belly. The males carry a stunning stacked pattern of blue, white and green on their upper wing in flight.
Females appear in mottled brown plumage similar to that of the mallard. Both males and females have a brilliant green speculum (flight feathers close to body).
Look for them on the PLPOA lakes as well as the shallow ponds seen near the Ross Aragon Community Center along the Riverwalk before they head to more northern climes for breeding season.
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