Eclipse Shoveler

General birdwatching discussion, help with bird identification, and all other things relating to wild birds and birding in NZ that don't fit in one of the other forums.
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Adam C
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Joined: Mon May 30, 2011 8:58 am

Eclipse Shoveler

Postby Adam C » Sat Jul 13, 2019 3:34 pm

Hi All. Open to feedback here from those more experienced.
I covered a lot of ground today including Most of the ChCh Estuary, Oxidation ponds, Travis wetland, lake Kate Sheppard etc having a look for our Northern Shoveler. Probably covered well over a thousand shoveler.

First bird I noticed (at the Estuary) was the bird in the 2nd 4 pics attached below. No other Male shoveler were showing anything like these muted colours. All the rest were reasonably bright with clear white crescents etc but this one didn't strike me as anything other than a young male, possibly first year etc. Open to feedback?

The 2nd bird (1st 4 pics) is the one I'm highly suspicious is our Northern Bird in Eclipse. I could be wrong but the Northern Shoveler always seemed more 'Bill heavy' than the Australasian birds. Also this is the one thats is on the Oxidation ponds at the moment. Pretty sure this is also the one I saw in late April with a fully green head but no Crescent as its hanging out with the same 4-5 birds in the same spot again.

Are these both just immature birds and if so why are there only 1-2 of them in hundreds of other Shoveler. Or is it just another white bummed scaup scenario. Odd birds just throwing us off the scent :)

Anyone got any ideas? Andrew?
Eclipse Shoveler 2f.jpg
Eclipse Shoveler 2f.jpg (672.25 KiB) Viewed 195 times
Eclipse Shoveler 1f.jpg
Eclipse Shoveler 1f.jpg (712.68 KiB) Viewed 195 times
“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

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RussCannings
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Re: Eclipse Shoveler

Postby RussCannings » Sun Jul 14, 2019 1:32 pm

Hi Adam,

I suspect both birds are immature males (Australasians) with the more coloured-up bird being more advanced. For an adult male Australasian in eclipse (Which would be out of season as you suggested), I would expect a paler yellow iris, more extensive adult colouration in flight feathers, flanks, and chest. Both birds (Especially the first set of photos) still have a lot of the female-like juvenile plumage typical of a first-winter male at this stage. But why are these the only birds like this in a large group? Well for one, due to the usual high mortality rates of young ducklings, immature ducks are typically in the minority compared to the rest of a winter flock (Same would be for say--a large group of Red-billed Gulls)--then you halve that for males, then you add to the mix the different speeds of molt for different individuals (Ducks in NZ can be bad for this since breeding is possible throughout the year).

As for why I don't think either is a Northern--the typical adult Northern Shov in eclipse shows some orange in the bill (Like a female), ranging from paler edges to entirely bright orange. Aussies on the other hand go for the all black-grey look. Like Aussies, adult males in eclipse should still have bright yellow irises--which neither bird has. Finally, like adult Aussies--but even more so for Northerns--I would expect much more obvious adult body/flight feather plumage--particularly in the form of blackish primaries/tertials, and pure white outer rectricies (tail feathers).

Having said that, if any male Northern Shovelers remain in NZ, it wouldn't be surprising to find them in eclipse--as that is the typical July plumage in the Northern hemisphere. But of course... vagrants can be weird when it comes to moult so who knows?!

Russ C
Morrinsville, NZ
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Adam C
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Re: Eclipse Shoveler

Postby Adam C » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:27 pm

Great Feedback Ross.

Its funny how one bird can trigger a more in-depth interest. I suspect you're right on all counts but theres just something different about that 1st bird that keeps nagging me! But then it wouldn't be the first time an odd bird has fired up the imagination only to be something pretty ordinary! Just the fact that there was a scruffy, very green headed bird with no Crescent about 5-6 weeks back hanging out with this wee gaggle of 4 in the same spot. Now this bird has turned up with them I'm 99% sure is the same one.

But I think yr comments on the bill coloration might settle it.

Really appreciate the feedback here. Love how opening one door leads to a million others with knowledge and discovery. Couple of other duck-shooters Ive chatted to on facebook have been really helpful too.

A few more pieces added to the puzzle!

Never thought ducks would hook me like Shorebirds but....
“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”

Samuel Ullman

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