"Beautiful, But Strange"

Northern Shoveler

        Historically the Northern Shoveler was not common in Washington County, but with construction of sewer ponds, like the one in Hurricane, it is now possible, on some winter days to see hundreds of Northern Shovelers feeding and floating on the ponds. The Northern Shoveler is a specialized feeder, often referred to as the "Spoonbill" northern shoveleror "Spoony" because of their unique spatulate shaped bill. This bill has about 110 fine projections along the edges, for straining food from water. The large bill is inserted into brackish waters, taking food in at the tip and excreting water at the back of the bill. In order to concentrate their food supply, groups will swim together in circles, creating a whirlpool or tornado effect bringing food up from the bottom to be strained and then consumed. Organisms used to treat wastewater are exactly the type of food the Shovelers consume.

        The Northern Shoveler prefers grassland, wetland, and marine ecosystems. Today the Northern Shoveler has a large range, being native to the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and introduced to Australia. The global population is estimated at 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 individuals. The Northern Shoveler does not like cold weather and migrates south for winter. During breeding season it lays its eggs on the ground in grassy areas as far North as Alaska.

        Since winter is upon us, viewing this bird is best done on the bluffs of the Hurricane Sewage Treatment ponds. They have been seen in much smaller numbers across several southern Utah ponds like the Gunlock, Baker’s, and Ivins Reservoir, Grandpa’s Pond, Tonaquint Pond, and many of the Golf Course ponds. The colors of the Northern Shoveler resemble the brightness of the Mallard, but the distinctly oversized large bill gives it a characteristic silhouette that is recognizable sitting on a pond or flying through the air. If you have a hankering to identify birds remember..... It’s time for the Christmas Bird Counts. Come spend a day and find how to fully enjoy the outdoors. Learn to identify the birds that fill your world. Make your future walks around the neighborhood even more delightful. Know the conditions which make it possible for bird life to flourish living in southern.

Saturday, Dec 19: Zion National Park - Christmas Bird Count

Saturday, Dec 26: St. George - Christmas Bird Count

Monday, Dec 28: Silver Reef - Christmas Bird Count

For more details, to register, or to request an area you would like to cover, call Marilyn Davis at 435 673-0996.  Birders and Wanabe Birders welcome.


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