The red shoveler is a sexually dimorphic duck species, which means that the males and females look different. The males have a reddish coloured body with black speckles with a black and white streaked lower back, rump and tail. The females appear to be mottled brown due to their feather colouring with a white streaked black tail. Both female and male heads are pale brown. They are named for the wide shovel-like bill shared by both sexes.
These birds usually live in pairs or in small groups, but will form larger groups when they are moulting. Red shovelers are migratory, moving north in the winter and south during the summer breeding season. They inhabit a range of freshwater and brackish habitats and can live at altitudes of up to 3,400 metres above sea level.
They are ground nesting, building nests out of dry plant material such as reeds, twigs and grasses. The females lay between five and eight eggs and will incubate them and raise the chicks without the help of the male.
They use their shovel-like beaks to filter the mud and water for plants and aquatic invertebrates. Shovelers will dabble, head dip and forage on the waters edge for food.
Red shovelers are classed as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, like many aquatic birds they are threatened by habitat destruction. Huge areas of wetlands are being destroyed or damaged, reducing the availability of suitable breeding and feeding sites. They are hunted, although their meat is not considered good to eat. Some birds are also collected for the pet trade.
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
- Distribution: Southern South America
- Habitat: Coast, Freshwater, Wetlands
- Diet: Aquatic Insects, Leaves, Roots
- Weight: 525 - 610g
- No. of young: 5 - 8
- Life Span: 20 - 30 years