Shovelers breed across much of northern America and Eurasia, migrating south in winter as far as Central America and the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia. In Great Britain numbers and range were limited until the introduction of wildlife protection acts in the late 19th century curtailed uncontrolled wildfowling, after which populations expanded until by the 1930s they were nesting regularly in many British counties. The breeding population stabilised eventually at around 1000 pairs (1968-72 Atlas), later losses in some areas being balanced by increases elsewhere (Bird Atlas 2007-2011). The winter picture is somewhat different:  Birds of Wiltshire recorded that in 2003 the national winter population was estimated to be just under 15,000 while Bird Atlas 2007-2011 reported a 36% increase in winter range and a 70% increase in numbers since the early 1980s.
    Although Shovelers were reported occasionally in Wiltshire in the 19th century, it was only from the late 1920s onwards that they began to be recorded regularly in winter, first in small numbers, then building up to around 150 by 2000. Since then, winter numbers have continued to increase in line with the national trend: in November 2008 The Wetland Bird Survey recorded 218 at the Cotswold Water Park (CWP) alone and the county total that month must have been approaching 300. Similarly high figures were recorded in 2012.
    Breeding was first recorded in Wiltshire in 1932, then again in1946, 1947 and 1994, with suspected breeding also in1966 and 1972. There have been no confirmed breeding records since 1994 despite the increased frequency of summer records: Birds of Wiltshire recorded Shovelers in only six tetrads, with no evidence of attempted breeding; Bird Atlas 2007-2011 recorded them in 13 tetrads with evidence of probable breeding at CWP and Stanton Fitzwarren Lake.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.