Northern shovelers flock to Mountain View Pond

A northern shoveler at Mountain View Pond in Gardnerville, which is not a coot.

A northern shoveler at Mountain View Pond in Gardnerville, which is not a coot.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some of the different waterfowl that frequent Mountain View Pond along the Martin Slough trail. I thought I’d seen American coots swimming together in a tight circle, but an email from valley resident Tim Pettenati revealed that I’d actually seen a flock of northern shovelers.

Tim is part of a group on Nextdoor called, “Friends of Mountain View Nature Park,” and he shared a beautiful picture he took of a northern shoveler swimming at the pond. At first glance, the male shoveler’s striking green head may resemble that of a mallard, but there are distinct differences between these two species of ducks.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife website ( details the northern shoveler’s oversized, shovel-shaped bill, which explains how this duck got its name. Breeding Northern Shoveler males have a green head, white chest and belly, rusty brown sides, and a black bill, and male mallards have a brown breast, gray body, and bright yellow bill. Female Northern Shovelers and female mallards are both mottled brown in color, but the female shoveler’s large bill is orange while the mallard’s is orange and brown.

Like mallards, Northern Shovelers are dabbling ducks, which means they feed mostly at the surface instead of diving underwater for food. The Cornell Lab “All About Birds” website ( explains how the unique shape and “comblike projections” (called lamellae) along the edges of its beak help the shoveler find food. When foraging, these ducks keep their heads down and sweep them back and forth. The lamellae act like a colander to filter seeds, stems, leaves, and small aquatic animals that the shoveler can eat. They’ll sometimes swim together in a curious, circular pattern to stir up food sources.

Shovelers form pairs in wintertime and are monogamous for a breeding season. Females build a nest on the ground and typically lay 8-12 eggs. The average lifespan of a Northern Shoveler is 5-10 years, although the oldest recorded shoveler was a male who lived to be more than 16.5 years old. First banded in Nevada in 1952, he was found in California in 1969.

If you find yourself at Mountain View Pond (or near any local body of water for that matter), keep your eyes open for these daffy ducks; they are fun to watch. Those interested in the Nextdoor group, “Friends of Mountain View Nature Park” are welcome to join at

A gardener’s gathering

Spring is just around the corner, and the Heritage Park Gardens committee invites the community to support this shared space by attending their monthly meetings. A project of Main Street Gardnerville, HPG is 100 percent volunteer-organized, and anyone with an interest in gardening and willing to lend a hand is encouraged to participate.

The next HPG committee meeting takes place 3-4 p.m. March 12 at Gardnerville Station, 1395 Main St. in Gardnerville.

The gardens are located at 1461 Ezell St. in Gardnerville and offer a labyrinth, gazebo, picnic areas, painted kindness rock garden, rental plots, and more. This year marks HPG’s 15th year, and MSG is investing in numerous upgrades that include raised beds and improvements to the children’s garden.

To help keep the kindness rock garden supplied, the HPG committee hosts rock painting sessions at Gardnerville Station at 10 a.m. the third Friday of each month (except July and December). Supplies are provided, and all are welcome. The next session is March 15.

With a goal of revitalizing the downtown area, MSG offers additional volunteer opportunities on their design, district vitality, organization, and promotion committees. Visit to learn more.

Amy Roby can be reached at


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