Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
ANAS CLYPEATA, Linn.
PLATE CCCXCIV.--MALE AND FEMALE.
The Creoles of Louisiana are well acquainted with this species, under the
name of "Micoine," the etymology of which I am unable to trace. In that country
it arrives, both from the westward and from the eastern inland districts, along
with the Blue-winged Teal, or at the commencement of autumn. It associates with
that species, to which, as well as to the Green-winged, the Mallard, the Dusky
Duck, and the Gadwall, I should consider it very nearly allied, notwithstanding
the peculiar expansion of its bill. The Shovellers remain in the lower parts of
Louisiana during the whole of the winter, and depart along with the Blue-wings
between the end of April and the middle of May. There, in early spring, they
resort chiefly to ponds, where they feed on grasses and their seeds, as well as
at times a small kind of onion, the bulbs of which they pull up from the moist
grounds on their margins. This may perhaps to some seem strange, but I have
long since made up my mind to learn from Nature, and believe what is, rather
than what philosophers imagine ought to be. Having fed through the night, they
collect towards dawn into large bands, and betake themselves to the margins of
sand-bars on the Mississippi, where they spend the greater part of the day. At
other times I have found them swimming or wading along the muddy margins of
ponds and streams, immersing the head and part of the neck while alternately
moving the bill to either side, in the manner of the Roseate Spoonbill, sifting
as it were the contents of the soft mud or water, and ejecting the substances
unfit for food. Repeated inspection of the stomach has shewn me that the
Shoveller is not more nice as to the quality of its food than the Mallard or any
other of the Duck tribe, for I have found in it leeches, small fishes, large
ground-worms, and snails. They never however, I believe, feed by
semi-immersion, like the Mallards and Teals; nor do they dive unless hard
pressed, or when in a sportive mood, when they will dash for a moment beneath
This species is generally considered scarce in the United States, and I
believe it is so, for, although many pass northward and breed in the Fur
Countries, a greater number spend the summer months in Texas and the districts
farther westward. It is however abundant on the streams of the Rocky Mountains,
as well as on the tributaries of the Columbia river, where it was frequently
observed by Mr. TOWNSEND, during summer.
We have no Ducks in the United States whose plumage is more changeable than
that of the male of this beautiful species. While the female is sitting on her
eggs, he undergoes a moult, after which he appears mottled, and seems as if
inclined to assume the garb of his partner. From this period, the beginning of
July, until late in November, very few finely-coloured males are to be seen, and
only such as have not mated that season, in which case they do not moult until
the beginning of winter, as if to be the sooner ready to associate with females
on the approach of the next breeding season.
In the Carolinas, this species, though found during winter in the rice
fields, is not abundant; more than three or four being seldom seen together. In
our Central and Eastern Districts, they are rather rare, and a male in full
dress is not to be obtained without difficulty, although I have seen some in the
markets of New York and Philadelphia.
The Shoveller walks prettily, and I have often admired its movements in the
puddles formed by heavy dashes of rain in our southern corn-fields, where I have
found it in company with the Wood Duck, the Mallard, and the Pin-tail. Its
flight resembles that of the Blue-winged Teal; and in tenderness as well as in
flavour, it rivals, as an article of food, that beautiful bird. No sportsman
who is a judge will ever pass a Shoveller to shoot a Canvass-back. It is rarely
however found on salt water, and that only when compelled to resort thither.
In the beginning of May, when I was in Texas, I found Shovellers breeding
inconsiderable numbers. The males had already left the females, and were seen
on the sand-bars of the Bay of Galveston, up to the river St. Jacinto, but none
of my party discovered the nest. During the autumn, they are to be seen on the
waters adjoining the Ohio, and generally in ponds in company with the Bald-pate
or American Widgeon, when they become very fat, and afford delicious eating. At
this time I have been often much pleased when, on perceiving a flock of eight or
nine of these Ducks, probably members of a single family, and cautiously
approaching them, while they were busily engaged in searching for food with
their heads and necks immersed, I have obtained several of them at the first
shot, and as the survivors flew off have succeeded in procuring one or two more.
On such occasions, they rise almost perpendicularly to the height of fifteen or
twenty feet, and then fly off in a direct course, in the manner of Mallards.
SHOVELLER, Anas clypeata, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. viii. p. 45.
ANAS CLYPEATA, Bonap. Syn., p. 382.
ANAS CLYPEATA, Shoveller, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii. p. 439.
SHOVELLER, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 383.
SHOVELLER DucK, Anas clypeata, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv. p. 241.
Male, 20 1/2, 31 1/2. Female, 17, 29 1/2
Breeds abundantly in Texas, westward to the Columbia and Fur Countries.
During winter from the Middle Atlantic Districts to Texas. Common.
Bill longer than the head, higher than broad at the base, depressed and
much widened towards the end, where its breadth is doubled. Upper mandible with
the dorsal line sloping and very slightly concave, the ridge at the base broad,
narrowed over the nostrils; sides nearly erect at the base, gradually more
declinate and convex; the tip very broadly rounded, with the unguis oblong,
rather small, curved and rounded at the extremity; the margins soft, with very
numerous lamellae, which are prolonged beyond the edges and taper to a point,
unless at the commencement of the broadest part of the bill. Nasal groove
elliptical, and filled by the soft membrane of the bill; nostrils elliptical,
pervious, placed near the ridge. Lower mandible slightly curved upwards, with
the angle very long and narrow, the unguis obovate.
Head of moderate size, oblong, compressed, rounded above; neck moderate;
body rather full, slightly depressed. Feet short, stout, placed a little behind
the centre of the body; legs bare a little above the joint; tarsus very short,
moderately compressed, anteriorly with small scutella, and an external short
series of larger, on the other parts reticulated with small scales. Hind toe
very small, with a narrow free membrane; third toe longest, fourth almost as
long; the three anterior slender, with numerous oblique scutella, and connected
by webs which have the margin concave and denticulate; the inner toe with a
broad margin. Claws small, arched, compressed, acute; that of middle toe
slightly dilated on the inner edge.
Plumage dense, soft, and elastic; of the head and neck short, blended, and
splendent; of the occiput and nape considerably elongated; of the other parts in
general broad and rounded. Whigs of moderate length, acute; primaries narrow
and tapering, the first longest, the second very little shorter; the secondaries
broad, curved inwards; the inner elongated and tapering. Tail short, rounded,
of fourteen acute feathers, of which the two middle extend five twelfths of an
inch beyond the next.
Bill greyish-black, tinged with yellow. Iris reddish-orange. Feet
vermilion; claws dusky. Head and upper part of neck, deep green, with purplish
reflections, the top of the head of a darker tint with less vivid gloss. A
longitudinal band on the hind neck and the back, greyish-brown, the feathers
edged with paler; the rump and upper tail-coverts greenish black. The anterior
scapulars white, the posterior elongated, light blue on the outer web,
longitudinally banded with white and greenish-black on the inner. Smaller
wing-coverts light blue; alula, primary coverts, and primary quills,
blackish-brown, their shafts white. Outer secondaries greyish-brown, eight of
them externally of a rich duck-green; the inner greenish-black, with a
longitudinal white streak; the secondary coverts broadly tipped with white.
Tail-feathers greyish-brown, irregularly variegated and margined with
reddish-white, that colour enlarging on the outer feathers. Lower part of neck
pure white; breast and middle part of abdomen dull purplish chestnut. A large
patch of white on each side of the rump, with a band of the same towards the
tail; lower tail-coverts greenish-black, with bright green and blue reflections;
axillaries and lower wing-coverts pure white.
Length to end of tail 20 1/2 inches, to end of wings 19, to end of claws
21 1/4; extent of wings 31 1/2; bill along the ridge 2 8/12; wing from flexure
9 8/12; tail 2 10/12; tarsus 1 4/12; first toe and claw 8/12; third toe 1 9/12,
its claw 5/12; fourth toe 1 9/12, its claw (3 1/2)/12. Weight 1 lb. 9 oz.
Bill dull yellowish-green, iris paler than in the male; feet as in the
male, but lighter. The upper parts are blackish-brown, the feathers edged with
light reddish-brown; the throat and sides of the head are light reddish-brown,
which is the prevailing colour over the lower part of the neck, a portion of the
breast and the sides, of which, however, the feathers are margined with dusky;
the middle of the breast white. Smaller wing-coverts dull brownish-grey; alula
and primaries as in the male; inner secondaries brownish-black; the speculum as
in the male, but paler, and changing to blue; the secondary coverts tipped with
white; tail nearly as in the male.
Length to end of tail 17 inches; to end of claws 20; bill along the ridge
2 1/12; extent of wings 29 1/2. Weight 1 lb. 1 oz.
The bill of a male measures 2 inches and 8 twelfths along the ridge, the
frontal angles 4 twelfths more; the breadth of the upper mandible at the base is
8 1/2 twelfths, near the end 1 inch and 3 twelfths. The roof of the mouth is
broadly and deeply concave, with a prominent median ridge, which becomes
papillate towards the base; the edges of the mandible soft, direct, inflected
towards the end; lamellae projecting beyond the margins and tapering to a point.
On each side of the lower mandible are about 220 lamellae, and about 180 on the
upper. The tongue is 2 3/4 inches long, deeply emarginate at the base, with
numerous papillae, for half an inch narrow and compressed, then for an inch
expanded, with a thin longitudinal flap above on each side divided into lamellae
and minute bristles, at its anterior part having a breadth of 1 inch and
terminating abruptly, but with a median thin semicircular tip, which is 3
The oesophagus is 8 inches and 10 twelfths long, 4 1/2 twelfths in
diameter, its walls thick. The proventriculus is oblong, 1 inch in length; its
glandules of moderate size. The stomach is a strong gizzard of moderate size;
the lateral muscles and their tendons large, as in all other Ducks. The
intestine is very long, measuring 8 feet, and very narrow, its diameter being
from 2 twelfths to 1 1/12 twelfths, for half its length, after which it enlarges
to 3 1/2 twelfths at the distance of about 2 feet from the commencement of the
rectum, then gradually diminishes to 2 twelfths. The rectum is 3 inches 2
twelfths long, the coeca 4 inches, their diameter for 1 1/4 inches 1 1/2
twelfths, afterwards 3 1/2 twelfths.
The trachea is 6 inches 9 twelfths long, very little flattened, its
diameter at the upper part 2 1/2 twelfths, gradually enlarging to 4 twelfths.
On the left side of the inferior larynx there is a rounded expansion of very
moderate size compared with that observed in many other Ducks. The rings are
98; those at the lower part broader and much stronger, but all of them ossified.
The bronchial half rings about 35.
In another individual, the stomach is 1 1/2 inches long, 1 5/12 broad; the
right lateral muscle 6 twelfths thick. Contents, particles of quartz, and
fragments of shells. Intestine 11 feet 6 inches long; coeca 6 1/4 inches long;
rectum 3 1/2 inches.
Long intestines, like long bills, often exhibit great differences in the
same species; for which reason characters taken from the length of these parts
must be received with latitude. Even in the Rapacious Birds, in which the
intestine is generally very short, considerable differences are observed in
individuals of the same sex and size. It will be seen from the above statement
that the Shoveller has a longer and more slender intestine than any other
American Duck. In this respect it is analogous to Pandion and Haliaetus among
the Raptores; generalizing vaguely from the consideration of which, as some have
done, one might be apt to conclude that it is more piscivorous than the
Canvass-back and Pochard, which, however, is by no means the case. Although in
some birds and mammalia a very elongated intestinal canal is connected with
piscivorous habits, yet many birds which feed exclusively on fish, such as
Gannets, Auks, and Guillemots, have the intestine of only moderate length or
short. It appears simply that when for some reason resulting from the economy
of the species, the intestine must be elongated, it is made proportionally
narrow; whereas if it be expedient that it should be short, its calibre is