Spatula (Anas) smithii
The Cape Shoveler inhabits shallow freshwater habitats (including farm dams, flooded grasslands, marshes and sewage works), lagoons, estuaries and salt pans, where it feeds mainly on aquatic invertebrates and tadpoles with plant material forming a smaller portion of the diet. While they are usually resident, at times Cape Shovelers will cover enormous distances; the reason for these erratic movements aren’t yet understood. Outside of the breeding period they may form sizable flocks of more than a hundred individuals.
Cape Shovelers breed at any time of the year (peak from late winter to early summer) in monogamous pairs, with the female being responsible for the building of the nest – a scrape in the ground built up with twigs, leaves and down, usually on a thickly vegetated island. She lays a clutch of 5-13 eggs and incubates them for 4 weeks. Once hatched, it is mostly the female that takes care of the ducklings while the male guards against predators. The chicks can fly when they’re about 9 weeks old and become independent soon after. Fully grown they measure about half-a-metre in length and weigh approximately 600g.
The Cape Shoveler occurs only in Southern Africa, being found from southwest Angola, through Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to Lesotho, Eswatini and South Africa, where they’re found at varying densities in all our provinces, with the largest concentrations on the Highveld and in the Western Cape. Considering that the IUCN estimates a growing population of up to 33,000 birds the Cape Shoveler is listed as being of least concern.