Historical information

The Australasian Shoveler is a species of duck that can be commonly found in heavily vegetated swamps in southwestern and southeastern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. The species, Australasian Shoveler, is aptly named after their large shovel-shaped bill. These birds use these large bills which are equipped with fine hair-like components which strain the water and mud for food including tiny creatures including insects, crustaceans and seeds while it swims.

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

This Australasian Shoveler is a species of low-floating duck with a dark head and brown plumage. The rear of this specimen is a dark brown, with mixed white and brown colouring on the upper torso. The underparts of this bird are brown and orange. The specimen has glass eyes made in an amber colour. The Shoveler is standing on a wooden platform which is labelled number 136. Amongst the feathers on the wings, this bird has a green coloured feather. The legs of the Shoveler would have once been a bright orange; however, the legs of this specimen have darkened in colour throughout the taxidermy process. This bird has a large bill shaped like a shovel from which the name "Shoveler" has been derived.

Inscriptions & markings

5a. /
Australian Shoveller /
See Catalogue, page 38. /