Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
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General Comments The Northern Shoveler is one of the few species of waterfowl that has clearly increased in the state over the past several decades. Formerly, this was a generally uncommon wintering bird, seen mostly near the coast. However, since at least 1990, the species is now quite numerous in some coastal and Tidewater areas, and inland records are not at all unusual; they are now even overwintering in parts of the Piedmont and possibly even in the mountains. Its habitat is similar to that of most other puddle ducks: ponds, lakes, and impoundments, usually well away from woody cover, but often not far from protective cover of marshes. They can occur on quite small ponds, more so than many other species of puddle ducks.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident; increasing. Generally fairly common, but locally common to very common, along the northern half of the coast and in the Tidewater area, most frequent at refuges. Mostly uncommon to fairly common along the southern half of the coast. Inland, rare to locally uncommon in winter and migration. Late Aug to mid-Apr, sparingly into May, exceptionally to the end of May. One male spent the entire summer 2021 at the Salt Pond at Cape Hatteras (Dare). Peak counts: 5,000, Mattamuskeet NWR (Hyde), 18 Feb 2024.
Piedmont Locally uncommon fall and spring migrant, most frequent in Mar. Rare to locally uncommon in midwinter, more numerous in winter in the eastern part of the province. Winter records have been increasing in the past two decades, and small to locally moderate numbers now overwinter. Primarily early Sep to late Mar, sparingly into May. One on 20 Jun 2015 in Guilford was quite out of season, as was another in that county on 18 Jun 2022. Peak counts: 948, Pee Dee NWR, 2 Jan 2010; 105, Wake, 16 Feb 2014; 70, Forsyth, 30 Mar 1972.
Mountains Rare spring and fall migrant, and very rare winter visitor, mainly in lower elevations. Late Oct to early Dec, and late Feb to early May. Peak counts: 15, Cashiers (Jackson), 15 Apr 1986; 15, Price Lake (Watauga), 22 Mar 2007.

An apparent male hybrid Blue winged Teal x Northern Shoveler was photographed on Price Lake (Watauga) on 2 Apr 2023 [Chat 87:50 link].

Finding Tips It is easily found at most coastal NWR's, such as Mattamuskeet and Pea Island. You should be able to find dozens to over 100 birds in late fall and winter at these sites. Farther inland, it can be difficult to find except at a few localized lakes and ponds.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-08], LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-03-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.