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Cape Shoveler Spatula smithii
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Spatula smithii (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Anas.

Anas smithii (Hartert, 1891)

Trend justification
The overall trend is suspected to be increasing (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is largely sedentary, but can be somewhat nomadic and dispersive within its southern African range (Scott and Rose 1996). There may also be some true seasonal north-south migrational movements through central South Africa (South African birds have been recovered in Namibia up to 1,650 km away) (Scott and Rose 1996, Kear 2005b). Its movements are poorly understood (Scott and Rose 1996, Hockey, et al. 2005), although migration appears to be between winter- and summer-rainfall areas (Hockey, et al. 2005) and is dependent on water availability, whereas nomadic movements are believed to be responses to food availability (Hockey, et al. 2005). In much of its range this species breeds throughout the year, although in some areas breeding is more seasonal (for example the breeding peak for birds in the south-west of Cape Province, South Africa is August-December) (Kear 2005b). The species breeds in single pairs or loose groups, but may crowd together where suitable nesting sites are scarce (Brown 1982, Madge and Burn 1988). Outside the breeding season the species is usually found in small groups, or very rarely in numbers up to 600 (Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005b). Adult birds undergo a period of moulting after breeding during which they are flightless for around 30 days (Brown 1982); during this time they seek the refuge of large open waters (Brown 1982, Scott and Rose 1996) rich in natural foods (Brown 1982). It is both a diurnal and nocturnal feeder (Brown 1982). Habitat This species shows a preference for shallow freshwater and brackish habitats, such as lakes, marshes and temporary floodwaters (Johnsgard, 1978, Brown 1982, Kear 2005b). It will feed in fertile waters rich in planktonic organisms such as sewage disposal ponds, and will also tolerate highly alkaline lakes (pH 10), tidal estuaries, saline lagoons and salt-pans (Johnsgard, 1978, Brown 1982, Scott and Rose 1996, Hockey, et al. 2005, Kear 2005b). It generally avoids deep lakes, fast-flowing rivers, farm dams and reservoirs except as temporary refuges (Johnsgard, 1978, Brown 1982, Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005b). Diet This species is omnivorous, commonly consuming the stems and seeds of water plants, snails, insects, molluscs, crustaceans and amphibian larvae (Brown 1982). Animal matter makes up a significantly larger proportion of its diet than does plant matter (Brown 1982). Breeding site The preferred nesting sites of this species are close to highly fertile shallow-water areas that have abundant sources of invertebrate food (Johnsgard, 1978, Kear 2005b). The nest itself is a shallow scrape in earth, often with sides and a canopy built up from vegetation, and it is generally positioned near the waters edge (Johnsgard, 1978, Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005b).

The only known potential threats to this species are the reduction of suitable ephemeral wetland habitats (Kear 2005b), and hybridisation with invasive Mallard Anas platyrhynchos (Hockey, et al. 2005). The species is also susceptible to avian botulism, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (Blaker 1967, van Heerden 1974). Utilisation This species is hunted, and although hunting is not currently a threat, it has the potential to become one if not managed sustainably (Little, et al. 1995, Kear 2005b).

Blaker, D. 1967. An outbreak of Botulinus poisoning among waterbirds. Ostrich 38(2): 144-147.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 2: species accounts (Cairina to Mergus). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Little, R. M.; Vester, K. C.; Crowe, T. M. 1995. Temporal and spatial paterns of breeding activity of 12 duck species (Anatidae) in the cape provinces, South-Africa, and their implications for hunting seasons. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 25(1): 17-22.

Madge, S.; Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

van Heerden, J. 1974. Botulism in the Orange Free State goldfields. Ostrich 45(3): 182-184.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Spatula smithii. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author (Hartert, 1891)
Population size 13000-33000 mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 2,430,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change