Family Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)

Least Concern

Cape Shoveler (Spatula smithii)


French: Canard de Smith German: Kaplöffelente Spanish: Cuchara de El Cabo

Spatula smithii (nec capensis Eyton, 1838)

E. J. O. Hartert

, 1891,

Cape Province, South Africa


Normally placed in genus Anas. Sometimes referred to by name S. capensis, but that name invalid, as preoccupied. Monotypic.


South Africa N to SW Angola and SW Zimbabwe.

Descriptive notes

51–53 cm; male 522–830 g, female 476–691 g. Unlikely to be confused in range due to distinctive bill shape, although beware possibility that S. clypeata... read more


Male utters loud “rrar” in non-breeding season and faster, machine-gun-like “rararararara” in... read more


Favours relatively large, open bodies of fresh or brackish (occasionally saline) waters (including... read more

Food and feeding

Small aquatic invertebrates (insects, molluscs, crustaceans), and some amphibians (mainly Xenopus tadpoles); also seeds (e.g. of... read more


Season variable, according to locality and water levels (i.e. rainfall dependent), with nests recorded in all months, e.g. in Transvaal... read more


Mostly sedentary, but somewhat dispersive within its range as availability of suitable habitat... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly widespread and locally abundant; probably maintains quite stable numbers, estimated at 20,000–50,000 birds in late 1990s... read more

Recommended citation

Carboneras, C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Cape Shoveler (Spatula smithii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).