If there was ever a bird that could claim, “But look at me now,” it would be a drake shoveler in the spring. There’s no question they’re one of the sharpest-looking birds this time of the year.
From the dull grays and browns of fall migration, with their namesake oversized bills, drakes take on a head as green and shiny as any mallards, and their white breast seems to glow in low light as much as any pintail or widgeon by this time of their spring migration.
They can also be one of the most entertaining to watch species in the spring.
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By now, most drakes are paired up with drab hens, and often gather with dozens of other pairs of their kind. Many times they can be seen swirling in tight circles together. It can be quite the sight to see 50 pairs all whirling continuously on a small prairie playa or small pond left by recent rains in a field of wheat.
Once only birds of fall and spring migrations, quite a few shovelers now winter in Wichita. They’re often seen on deep sand pits that don’t freeze. They need open water where they can use their large bills to skim the water’s surface for small forms of aquatic life.