Cape Shoveller Facts That You Probably Don’t Know

The Cape Shoveller, also known as the Cape Shoveler and Spatula smithii, is a dabbling duck in the genus Spatula. This duck species is a common resident in South Africa, further north of Namibia, Botswana, southern Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Zambia.

This duck species is widely known for its elongated, large size, speckled body, exciting features, and its extended spatula-shaped dark bill. Usually, the Cape Shoveller is confused with a female Northern Shoveler, a widespread duck species in Europe, North America, southern Europe, and Asia. However, the aforementioned species is usually stockier and darker than other shoveler species.

This duck species was first described in 1891 by Ernst Johann Otto Hartert, a widely published German ornithologist. The binomial name “Spatula smithii” is actually a commemoration to Scottish zoologist Sir Andrew Smith.

Since its general population is widespread across Africa and there are no significant threats that pose a danger to the decrease of their population, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified this duck species as Least Concern. The only

Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Anseriformes

Family: Anatidae

Genus: Spatula

Species: S. smithii

The physical characteristics of a Cape Shoveller

The Cape Shoveller is a culmination of beautiful colors and patterns, making it a wonderful sight to see in open wetlands. It is a large brown duck with a large, spatula-shaped black bill. Male and female Cape Shovellers have distinct differences when it comes to their physical attributes.

An adult Cape Shoveller has dark brown underparts and upperparts that have a mottled effect due to the pale edges of its feathers. Its rump and upper tail feathers are greenish-black. Its tail is dark brown, while the scapulars and tertials are glossy bluish-black. Its upper wing coverts are bluish-grey with white tips. Its primary feathers are dark brown, while secondaries are metallic greenish-blue. Its flight feathers are greyish-brown. A male’s head, neck, and eyes are yellowish. Its legs and feet are orange-yellow.

On the other hand, an adult female has duller colors but is more mottled than the opposite sex. It has a darker head and neck. The wings are duller, greyish with pale tips on great covers. Its eyes are dark brown, while the bill is a tad smaller. A juvenile resembles a female.

The distribution and habitat of Cape Shovellers

This duck species is indigenous to South Africa, although they show characteristics of nomadism and dispersion. It takes refuge in the south of Western Cape and other southern African countries.

Cape Shovellers frequent a wide range of habitats with water sources. They live in temporary wetlands, freshwater ponds and lakes, marshes with swallow brackish, estuaries, brackish coastal lagoons, and wet grasslands with emergent vegetation.

The behavior of a Cape Shoveller

This duck species is gregarious—individuals form pairs and small groups. During post-breeding molt, Cape Shovellers assemble with other several hundreds of birds. It is during this period when Cape Shovellers find their pair.

An adult Cape Shoveller measures from 51 to 53 cm in length. A male Cape Shoveller weighs around 688 grams, while a female Cape Shoveller weighs 598 grams.

Cape Shovellers build their nests in a depression in low-density vegetation or on the ground, just close to a water source. They collect grasses, leaves, and reeds to form nests. During the breeding period, Cape Shovellers breed in loose colonies or pairs. They breed all year round, peaking during the summer season. They perform courtship displays like other birds. They are relatively silent species, but during courtship and nesting, males become noisy. A male Cape Shoveller will emit a rasping “caouik” and a dry cackling. On the other hand, a female Cape Shoveller emits a “quack.”

A female Cape Shoveller lays five to twelve eggs, which will be incubated for about 27-28 days. After hatching, the parents will take good care of the young, feeding them and keeping them safe from predators until they fledge. Fledging takes place two months after being hatched.

The diet of a Cape Shoveller

This duck species diet is made up of mollusks, tadpoles, crustaceans, and insects. Sometimes, it feeds on aquatic seeds and plants. They are seldom seen feed on aquatic matters compared to other duck species.


Cape Shoveller
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