Spoonbills are very distinctive birds from the southeastern United States, a
species that was once much more common before the feather trade devastated
the species in the 1800s. While numbers are recovering in the U.S.,
the species has a wide geographic distribution, with higher populations
found throughout Latin America. When seen from a moderate distance,
the beautiful pink plumage and general outline provide the impression of a
stunningly beautiful bird, an impression that is dampened somewhat upon a
closer view by the somewhat less attractive head and face.
Habitat: Roseate Spoonbills can be found foraging
in both freshwater and saltwater, typically relatively close to the ocean
int he U.S. During the summer breeding season in the U.S., nesting
colonies are found in mangrove swamps in Florida, and in other forested
wetlands elsewhere along the Gulf Coast.
Diet: Feeds on a variety of aquatic animals,
including small fish, crayfish, shrimp, crabs, large aquatic insects,
leeches, slugs, frogs, and salamanders They will also consume the
tubers and new shoots of some aquatic plants.
Behavior: Uses it's unique spoon-shaped bill to
forage by wading in shallow water, and swinging its bill from side to side
until prey is detected.
Nesting: The nest of a Roseate Spoonbill is a
large platform of sticks and branches, depressed in the middle and lined
with leaves and other smaller pieces of vegetation. Both parents
incubate the eggs, and both parents help to raise the young.
Song: Has a low, consistent grunting.
Migration: Considered a permanent resident
throughout most of their range, but many U.S. birds are migratory, moving to
Mexico or the Caribbean for the winter. Young first-year birds may
disperse widely after fledging, and make up the majority of Roseate
Spoonbill vagrants that have been seen in far-flung, inland locations (see
Distinctive if seen well. From a distance, the
American Flamingo can look similar,
with pink plumage that is similar in hue, but the two species are very
distinct if seen well.
Conservation Status: Listed as a species of "Least
Concern" by the IUCN. Still much less common in the U.S. portion of
its range than it was historically, as the species was heavily affected by
those "harvesting" the birds for their feathers in the 1800s.
Populations globally are stable, however.
Image Information: Colored pencil drawing by Terry