Perhaps the most outwardly distinctive of the dabbling ducks, the Northern Shoveler inhabits wetlands across much of North America. Its elongated, spoon-shaped bill has comblike projections along its edges, which filter out food from the water.
The Northern Shoveler, related to the Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, favors broad, shallow marshes where it can use the comb-like teeth along the edges of its large bill to strain aquatic animals, plants, and seeds from the water. Like the two teal, male shovelers wear eclipse plumage until February, much later than ducks whose courtship begins in the fall. Though less numerous than in ancient times, the Northern Shoveler and other marsh ducks have lately become relatively abundant because game departments and private organizations in Canada, the United States, and Mexico have purchased wetland habitat to ensure their survival.