By Janet Byron
Northern Shovelers are common in the Bay Area in winter months. But breeding season is another matter – so it was exciting news when a female Northern Shoveler and babies were recently spotted in Alameda County.
Golden Gate Audubon board member Bob Lewis photographed the Shoveler with two ducklings on May 20 at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.
“The recently issued Alameda County Breeding Bird Atlas states the only confirmed record for the county was Hayward Marsh,” Lewis noted. “Time has gone on, and there may be others now. These birds were on the north side of the large pond across from the last parking area at Coyote Hills.”
Another birder, Jerry Ting, reported seeing the female Northern Shoveler with seven babies at the same spot in Coyote Hills a week earlier. He guessed that a pair of Northern Harriers nesting nearby may have taken the other ducklings.
The Northern Shoveler is a spoon-billed dabbling duck that breeds in freshwater and brackish ponds. While they are abundant on San Francisco Bay in winter months, especially in Santa Clara County and the South Bay, few have historically remained to breed. The Northern Shoveler’s breeding grounds include Alaska, southeastern Canada and the United States from northeastern California to southern Minnesota.
The only confirmed record in Contra Costa County was at McNabney Marsh in 1995. One was confirmed breeding in Marin County at Las Gallinas sewer pond in 1985, and they are spotted breeding occasionally in Santa Clara County.