The Unmistakable Bill

The Unmistakable Bill

When I was in graduate school and just getting into wildlife photography, I spotted a pair of unfamiliar ducks at the Virginia Tech Duck Pond. They only stayed for a day or two before migrating on, but I was a bit puzzled as to their identification as they didn’t quite match anything in my guide book. I guessed (rightly so) that they were northern shovelers as nothing else in the book had a bill quite like theirs. I later learned that they were in non-breeding plumage, while my guide book only had their breeding plumage.

When we moved to Oregon I was delighted to find shovelers here in the winter, so now I get to see them on a regular basis, and am still amused by the variety of plumages I see within the same group of shovelers. This male for example, even though it was late winter, still has signs of his intermediate plumage. With that bill, though, there’s no mistaking him for anything but a shoveler.

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