The single most important UK site for the shoveler is the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire, thought to support over 150 pairs, some two percent of the international population. The Ouse Washes hold significant numbers of many breeding waterfowl and have been designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA). This site is specially managed for wildfowl, being allowed to flood during the winter, and grazed to encourage suitable conditions for breeding birds.
In addition to the breeding population, shoveler numbers are swelled in winter by migratory birds from northern Europe, Russia and the Ukraine, and (possibly) Iceland. Shoveler migration is a complex affair, with British birds leaving for southern Europe and northern European birds arriving to overwinter. All this makes assessing population sizes rather difficult, so the current estimate of 10,000 UK birds may be less than the actual number. In addition to the designated SPA for breeding shovelers, there are 26 non-breeding SPAs, where the birds' importance qualifies the sites for special protection.