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< >  Anas smithii - Cape shoveler (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)









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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

African shoveler
South African shoveler
Smith’s shoveler
Kaplöffenlente (German)
Südafrikanische Löffelente (German)
Canard de Smith (French)
Souchet du Cap (French)
Cuchara del Cabo (Spanish)
Pato cuchara del Cabo (Spanish)
Spatula smithii

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B5, B8, B19, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B97, B128.w1, B128.w2)
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques


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Aviculture Information


General Information:
  • Dabbling Ducks are generally hardy, easy to maintain and easy to breed. Shelter may be required by some of the smaller species in winter. They should be provided with cover (including marginal pond cover) and loafing areas as well as water. A pen which is 50% water is suggested. The water may be shallow (i.e. no more than two feet deep is required), and muddy areas for dabbling in are also appreciated. These ducks are generally good in mixed collections, although the smaller and quieter species may be bullied. Territorial disputes between ducks of the same species may be avoided by keeping only one pair of each species in an enclosure, unless the area is very large. For a single pair of ducks a pen are of 50 to 100 square metres, depending on the size of duck, should be provided.
  • A diet based on wheat and pellets is suggested, with maintenance pellets changed to breeders pellets for the breeding season. Bread and greenfood are also appreciated. Grit should always be available, with soluble grit (e.g. oystershell grit) as a calcium source when breeding.
  • Most species are ground nesters and both close ground cover and ground level nest boxes should be provided. Hand-rearing is generally preferred, as these ducks are generally poor parents in captive conditions, particularly in enclosures shared with other waterfowl. These ducks are prone to hybridization, particularly with closely related species, which should be kept apart from one another.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B128.w1, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Cape shovelers are sociable and suitable for mixed collections. They should be maintained in an enclosure with good bankside vegetation and fairly shallow muddy water. Feed as other ducks: grain, pellets, bread, greenfood.
  • These ducks have been bred fairly regularly. Close ground cover and ground-level nest boxes should be provided. Ducklings are very insectivorous and require live food.
  • Hybridisation reported with Anas platalea - Red shoveler.

(B29, B94, B97, B128.w2).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: K 10.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 20 inches, 51cm (B3); 51-53cm (B1).
Adult weight General 584-830g (B1).
Male 550-830g average 688g (B3); mean 1.5 lbs. (B8).
Female 480-690g average 597g (B3); mean 1.3 lbs. (B8).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Black.
Variations (If present) Female: dark brown to grey-black.
Eyes (Iris) Male Yellow.
Variations(If present) Female: brown.
Juvenile Bill Dark brown to grey-black.
Eyes (Iris) Brown.

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Adult Male Yellow/orange.
Variations (If present) Yellow/grey.
Juvenile Yellow/grey.

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Adult Male Head and neck pale grey-buff with fine dark streaks, almost solid black centre crown and hindneck, plain grey-buff throat. Body dark reddish brown with buff feather edges. Rump and uppertail coverts green-black, tail dark brown, scapulars and tertials glossy blue-black.

Wing has primaries dark brown, coverts grey-blue, greater coverts having white tips, secondaries metallic blue-green.

Variations (If present) Female: duller, more mottled, rump, uppertail coverts, scapulars and tertials dull brown, coverts greyish with narrow white tips greater coverts.
Juvenile Similar to female, broader buff feather edges on underparts.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts olive brown with yellow markings, underparts yellow, with dark eyestripe and indistinct lower band on face.
Bill: Dark grey.
Feet: Dark grey.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Variable across range and depends on water levels. Peak August to December.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

On the ground in low vegetation close to water; constructed from reed stems, leaves and grass, lined with down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 9 (B8).
Range 5-12 (B1); 5-19 (B8)
Egg Description Cream tinged with green. Size: 54 x 36mm, weight: 45g (B3)..

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27-28 days (B1, B8).

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About 8 weeks (B1); 50-60 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Presumed Anas standard: one year old.
Females Presumed Anas standard: one year old.

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Dabbles on surface or from shore, often co-operatively, also head-dips and upends, occasionally dives.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Solitary or in loose groups, nest built by female only.
Incubation By female only.
Newly-hatched Tended by female only.


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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Congregate in flocks of several hundred to moult. Not particularly territorial while breeding.
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Seasonal monogamous pair bonds, male leaves female part way through incubation. May sometimes rejoin same mate in following years.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Circadian --

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Natural Diet


Small aquatic invertebrates (crustaceans, molluscs, insects), amphibians (Xenopus tadpoles), seeds and vegetative parts aquatic plants.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


South Africa northward to Namibia and Botswana.

Mainly sedentary, some dispersal depending on habitat availability.

Occasional and Accidental




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Large open shallow fresh and brackish waterbodies, including coastal lagoons, tidal estuaries.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not threatened. Locally abundant (B1).

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats --

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Captive Populations

Reasonably common in European collections but few in America collections (B8).

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