A Most Unusual Duck

Sunday, November 13, 2016,


This rather odd looking duck with the ginormous bill is called a Northern Shoveler. It gets its name from that spectacular beak. That bill works as a sieve to filter plants, seeds, and small crustaceans from the water. That’s a pretty cool adaptation.

I took this pic yesterday during a Four Harbors Audubon walk at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket. It’s a great park. There are many species that overwinter here. Lots of ducks that we don’t get to see during the summer. You might want to check it out. JK

Northern Shovelers

December 2, 2012,

One of my responsibilities as photographer for the Four Harbors Audubon Society is coming up with a bird of the month for our website. One of my fellow board members suggested a winter duck so I went to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket. This park is terrific for waterfowl. The two ponds here attract a wide variety of wintering birds. One can find all kinds of ducks here. For a photographer it can be like shooting fish in a barrel or ducks on a – well, you get my point.

These are pics of a pair of Northern Shovelers. Check out those bills. They’re bigger than the rest of their heads! It’s no wonder that these birds tend to keep their bills pointed down. The real wonder is how they manage to stay upright at all.

My friend Elaine says, “Gotta love that bill!” and my friend Luci once described it as a “wonderful adaptation”. Meanwhile, these are the ducks that had to sit by themselves in the high school cafeteria.

All kidding aside, those bills really are amazing. That over-sized shnozz  is used to sieve edible matter – be it zooplankton, crustaceans, or seeds from the water. This gives these guys a one-up on the other dabbling ducks that visit us, even if they do look like mutant Mallards. JK   



Sunday, May 2, 2010,

Back in March, my friend Sue, of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, asked me if I could get some pics of Bufflehead Ducks. So I decided to paddle the Lower Carmans River where it passes through Wertheim Refuge. This was not exactly a chore as I really like this stretch of river at any time of year. As a matter of fact, I went two days in a row. I also know from past experience that this is a good place to find Buffleheads.

Here’s one.

Male Bufflehead

Here’s two.

Buffleheads, male at left, female at right.

Here’s a whole herd of them.

A flock of Buffleheads.



Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I am not a birder but I am fairly certain that this is a male Bufflehead duck. Buffleheads are very small ducks that, like Mergansers, dive for their meals. Unlike other diving ducks, Buffleheads are capable of vertical takeoffs. Supposedly. I have seen this guy with another male on several occasions but I have never seen either dive or exhibit the flight trick. Both have flown short distances but neither has actually left the water in my presence. They seem to use these short flights to cross the water in a hurry. I may be witnessing distraction displays because these guys usually “fly” perpendicular to my boat rather than straight away. JK