Endangered Roseate Spoonbill

 

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)
Description:
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”.
Behavior:

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
western Louisiana.

 

Threats:
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!
https://myfwc.com/

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
https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/roseate-spoonbill

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Endangered Black Skimmers

 

 

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)
Description:
What do you think when you see a medium-size bird with a HUGE bill just basking in the sun on the beach?  “What’s wrong?” “Should I call the Wildlife Center of Venice” for help?” “Did an alien land?” None of those! You’ve just spotted a“Black Skimmer” which is a seabird with a bill that defines both the bird and the way it
makes it’s living.  The Black Skimmer has a black back, black wings with white edging, and a white belly and head. Its wingspan can be 3 to 3.5 feet, with a height of approx. 19 inches (larger than a Laughing Gull, but smaller than a Royal Tern (although the skimmer has longer wings)). The most noticeable feature of this bird is the bill.  This large bill is bright orange close to the face and black towards the tip and is quite wide at the top. It gradually becomes smaller until it forms a sharp point at the end, with the lower part of the bill being noticeably longer than the top. There are 3 species of “skimmers”, however only the Black skimmer is found in the Americas.

Behavior:
The name reflects the way this bird hunts for his food, which is primarily fish. They will fly low over the surface of the water, “skimming” that surface with their lower bill. When they contact a fish, they bend their head forward and snap down with the upper bill and seize their prize. They can be active all day, but most of the activity is at dusk and dawn. While the Skimmers “make their living”
from the water, they do not swim. In Florida, the Black skimmers are found in coastal areas, but are also found in coastal areas from as far north as the northeastern U.S. south to Mexico.
Breeding colonies are most common from southern California to Ecuador. The breeding colonies can range from one pair to several hundred pairs and the birds are quite protective of their nests and will sometimes “mob” something they perceive as “threatening”.
They typically lay from 3 to 5 eggs, with parents taking 4-hour “shifts” to incubate those eggs and both parents will feed the nestlings. The upper and lower bills of the nestlings are the same length, allowing them to pick up bits of food the parents my drop – the lower bill grows longer than the upper during the fledgling
period. Once hatched, the parents will continue to stand guard until the fledglings are able to fly (28-30 days after hatching).

Adult Skimmer and young chick!

Threats:
Because these birds nest primarily on beaches, the main threats they face are loss of habitat due to increased development and “traffic disturbance” by human activity (beach driving and other recreational activity), shoreline hardening, mechanical raking, as well as environmental challenges of oil spills, presence of
domestic animals, increased predation by raccoons, crows, opossums, etc., declining fish stocks and the impending threat of rising sea levels destroying nesting areas.  Most of the colonies in Florida are under protective management – often by volunteers or local land managers. This usually involves posting informational signs and “symbolic” fencing. As these birds are very sensitive to disturbance, few
of these colonies would survive without this active management and protection.  The Black Skimmer is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty and also by Florida as a “Species of Special Concern” by the Florida “Endangered and
Threatened Species Rule”.

The above information was gleaned from the “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission” website – a wealth of information!
https://myfwc.com/
AND from the Audubon Field Guide
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/roseate-spoonbill
AND from “Birdadorable”
https://www.birdorable.com

Photo credits go to Kathy Abbott.

At the Wildlife Center of Venice (501c3 Non-Profit), we are committed to the preservation, rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife in our local community.  We service all of Sarasota and West Charlotte counties in the State of Florida. We work hard each day to uphold these values, but we need each and every one of you to help us in this noble cause.