George W's picture

Strange behaviour

Observed: 10th February 2011 By: George WGeorge W’s reputation in BirdsGeorge W’s reputation in BirdsGeorge W’s reputation in Birds
Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3

Apologies for the quality of the photos. This bird, which I thought at first it was a Mallard but now think is a shoveler, kept its head low with beaak in the water as it went round in circles. It did raise its head eventually, as photo 3 shows, but when I was studying it, it would not raise its head. I have never observed this behaviour before. Can anyone suggest what it was doing or what may have caught its attention?

Species interactions

No interactions present.


DavidHowdon's picture

Feeding I suspect

Probably feeding by dabbling with its bill in the water.

David Howdon

Syrphus's picture

This sounds like very typical

This sounds like very typical Shoveler feeding behaviour. It is something all dabblers do, but Shoveler make it an art - it goes with the bill. See



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on

RoyW's picture

Circling shovelers

Sometimes you see them doing this without seeming to move their head (the head stays in one place, half under-water, while the body rotates round it!).

They also sometimes do this in large groups - I have seen about c70 circling round each other in a relatively restricted area of water during freezing conditions, and up to c20 in one spot when there was no ice around, so plenty of free water elsewhere.
The behaviour no doubt stirs up the mud making it easier to find the very small creatures they will be feeding on.