Roseate Spoonbill - Platalea ajaja
The most distinctive characteristic of the roseate spoonbill is its long, spoon-shaped bill. It has a white head and chest, light pink wings with a darker pink fringe, and very long pink legs. The roseate spoonbill is about 2.5 feet in length with a wingspan of about 4.5 feet. Both males and females have the same plumage and coloring. The male is slightly larger than the female, and his bill is a little longer.
The roseate spoonbill is found on the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, and southern Florida. It is also found in the Caribbean and in Central and South America.
The roseate spoonbill spends a lot of its time in shallow water feeding. It sweeps its open bill from side to side in the water to sift up food like small fish, shrimp, mollusks, snails, and insects. It has touch receptors in its bill that help it feel its prey. Like the flamingo, the roseate spoonbill's pink color comes from the food it eats. Some of the crustaceans it feeds on eat algae that give the spoonbill's feathers their rosy pink color.
The female spoonbill lays 2-4 eggs. Both the female and the male incubate the eggs. The chicks hatch in about three weeks and fledge in around 35-42 days. Both the male and female feed the chicks until they are about eight weeks old. Young roseate spoonbills have white feathers with a slight pink tinge on the wings. They don't reach maturity until they are three years old.
Roseate spoonbills are very social. They live in large colonies with other spoonbills, ibises, storks, herons, egrets, and cormorants. Roseate spoonbills fly in flocks in long diagonal lines with their legs and neck stretched out.
The roseate spoonbill population was once threatened by hunting. In the mid-to-late 1800s, its feathers were used in ladies' hats and fans. The population was also threatened by loss of habitat due to drainage and pollution. By the early 20th century, the population had shrunk to only a few dozen nesting pairs in the United States. Special protected areas were set aside for them, and in the 1940s they were made a protected species. Over time the population recovered and today the roseate spoonbill is no longer a protected species.
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Robin Carter