One of birds I most wanted to see in Arizona was a Northern Shoveler. I've been looking for a Northern Shoveler for years. That's not an exaggeration, either. I just had to see one, and I was thrilled to learn that Shovelers are among the most common ducks in southeast Arizona. We got up bright and early on our first full day in in Tucson, and headed out to Sweetwater where my son had assured me I would get my fill of Shovelers.
Minutes after our arrival I was jumping up and down with excitement. There they were! Northern Shovelers! Lots of them! Tom and I were clicking away like crazy, and we got some damn good pictures.
The Shoveler’s incredibly long bill was as fantastic as I had imagined. These ducks look nothing like any other species I've come across. I was surprised by how tiny they were, though. They're much smaller than mallards, for instance.
Other than size, and if you exclude that great big black bill, there are a lot of similarities between Mallards and Northern Shovelers. Perhaps too many similarities!
It didn't take long for me to notice that there were more hybrids paddling around than any one single species. It was patently obvious that Mallards, Wigeons, Shovelers, and God knows what else were interbreeding like crazy. The family group pictured above is a good example of what I'm talking about!
In all honesty, my love affair with shovelers was somewhat short-lived. Not that I dislike them, mind you. I'm just not head over heels any longer. Who could resist a photo op like this one. though?