ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)
Seeing the Roseate spoonbill in the wild is always a beautiful treat! The pink, red, and white bird is the only “spoonbill” that is native in the Western Hemisphere. (Often misidentified as flamingos which live further south). It’s a large wading bird with a wingspan of 50-53 inches and a length of 30-40 inches. Similar to the Wood Stork and the vulture, they have no feathers on their head, their wings and under-body are pink, with some red on the tops of thewing, their neck and back are white and they pinkish legs and feet. They get their name from their large spoon-shaped bill and the coloration which comes from their diet. The name given to a group of Roseate spoonbills is a “Bowl”.
Roseate spoonbills feed by using their large bill to sweep through the shallow water, stirring up their prey. Their diet consists primarily of crayfish, shrimp, crabs, and small fish. They nest in “mixed colonies” with other wading birds in mangroves or marsh-like areas – generally on the coast, although some can befound inland. While there is no visible difference between male and female – they have different “jobs”. The male spoonbills collect the materials for the nest and the females build the deep branch and twig next to their satisfaction. They will have a clutch of up to 5 eggs and both parents will incubate the eggs for approx. 24 days. After hatching, the young will remain in the nest for 35-42 days and will be fed by both parents. At about 4 weeks, the nestling will begin building strength by climbing through the branches of the nest and by about 6 weeks will have wing feathers large enough to fly. In Florida, the main nesting areas are in Florida Bay, Tampa Bay, and Brevard County. Florida is the northernmost breeding area for the Roseate spoonbill, however the they also establish colonies in coastal Central and South America along the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico as far west as coastal Texas and
Historically, the major threat to the Roseate spoonbill was hunting for their feathers – the species was at the brink of extinction in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s due to hunting for and collection of the beautiful feathers. Hunting was outlawed in 1918 under the Migratory Bird Treaty and this allowed the species to
survive and grow in numbers. Like most of our threatened and endangered species, habitat destruction and degradation, along with declining food sources are the major threats to their
continued survival. Other threats include pesticides, pollution and illegal hunting. Roseate spoonbills are listed as a “State Species of Special Concern” and are protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The above information was gleaned from the “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission” website – a wealth of information!
Photo credits go to Kathy Abbott.
AND from the Audubon Field Guide https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/roseate-spoonbill AND from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute
Please do consider making a donation to the Wildlife Center of Venice. A couple of bucks can go a very long way to feeding recovering wildlife as they recover.