Red shoveler (Anas platalea)

Also known as: Argentine shoveler, blue-winged shoveler, South American shoveler
GenusAnas (1)
SizeLength: 45 - 56 cm (2) (3)
Wingspan: 66 - 73 cm (3)
Weight523 - 608 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The red shoveler is an attractive South American duck with a large, distinctive, spatula-shaped beak (3) (4) (5), from which it gains its species name, platalea, meaning ‘spoonbill’ (4). Both during and outside of the breeding season, the male red shoveler has a pale reddish-chestnut to deeper reddish-brown body, profusely marked with round black spots, and a contrasting pale buff head, which is finely stippled with black, particularly on the crown. The chin and throat are more lightly marked and may appear whitish. The lower back and rump are blackish, as are some of the wing feathers, which are slightly elongated and have conspicuous white margins. The tail is also blackish with white outer feathers, and is relatively long and pointed (3) (4) (5), while the upperwing bears a light blue patch, separated from the iridescent green speculum by a broad white bar (2) (3) (4) (5). The undersides of the wings are white (4) (5). The beak is black and the legs and feet are grey to yellowish or orange (3) (4) (5).

The female red shoveler has a buffy, brown-spotted head and underparts, a whitish throat, a dark brown back with lighter feather edgings, and a dark tail, with creamy white edges. The blue patch on the wing is much duller than in the male and the white bar is reduced, while the speculum is blackish. The female also has a browner bill and dark brown eyes, in contrast to the distinctive white to light yellow eyes of the male (3) (4) (5). Juveniles resemble the female, although juvenile males have a brighter speculum (2) (3) (4). The male red shoveler gives a hollow tuk-tuk call, while the female gives a harsh quack (3) (4).

The red shoveler occurs in southern South America, from southern Peru, Bolivia, south-eastern Brazil and Paraguay south to Tierra del Fuego (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). It is also occasionally recorded on the Falkland Islands (2) (4) (5) (6). This species is partially migratory, with birds in the south of the range moving northwards during winter (2) (3) (4).

This species inhabits both fresh and brackish waters, including shallow ponds, lakes, marshes, estuaries and coastal lagoons. It occurs at elevations of up to around 3,400 metres in the Andes Mountains (2) (3) (4) (5).

The red shoveler is usually found in pairs or small groups (2) (4), although larger flocks may form when the birds are moulting (4). A poor walker on land (4), this species usually feeds in the water by dabbling, head-dipping and upending, filtering water or mud with the beak to obtain tiny aquatic invertebrates. The diet also includes seeds and other parts of aquatic plants (2) (4), and in winter birds have been recorded taking worms, insects, molluscs and even small frogs (4).

The breeding season begins in September or October (2) (4) and the nest is built on the ground, being constructed from twigs, aquatic plants, reeds and dry grass (4). Five to eight eggs are laid and are incubated by the female. The eggs hatch after around 25 days (2) (4), and it is likely that the female alone provides care for the ducklings (4). The red shoveler is thought to first breed at about a year old (4).

The red shoveler is a relatively common and widespread species, and is not currently considered at risk of extinction (6). However, it may suffer to an extent from the degradation of its wetland habits, and is also hunted in some areas (4), although it is generally regarded as unpalatable (3).

There are no known conservation measures currently targeted at this widespread duck.

For more information on the conservation of waterfowl see:

To find out more about conservation in the Falkland Islands and other UK Overseas Territories, see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Ogilvie, M.A. and Young, S. (2002) Photographic Handbook: Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. Kear, J. (2005) Ducks, Geese and Swans. Volume 2: Species Accounts (Cairina to Mergus). Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Blake, E.R. (1977) Manual of Neotropical Birds. Volume 1: Spheniscidae (Penguins) to Laridae (Gulls and Allies). University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
  6. BirdLife International (September, 2010)