Roseate Spoonbill

Platalea ajaja
Roseate Spoonbill

The Roseate spoonbill is a large wading bird most commonly found year round in southern Florida. Easily distinguishable by the large size and pink feathers,

 Spoonbill in Flightthis spoonbill species grows up to 38 inches tall with a 47-52 inch wingspan and can weigh up to 4 pounds. Feeding primarily on small aquatic animals such as fish and crustaceans, this bird species inhabits estuaries, marshes, and mangrove swamps along coastal areas. The pink coloration of spoonbill feathers is caused by an abundance of carotenoids, or algae pigments, present in the food the birds eat. As the spoonbill ages, the caroteniods accumulate from all of the aquatic animals it has eaten and the pink coloration becomes darker. A specialized spoon-shaped bill allows the bird to forage for its food by sweeping the head from side to side as it walks through shallow water. When sensitive nerves along the upper and lower bill feel prey move, the spoonbill clamps the bill shut and the prey is trapped.  

Spoonbill Feeding

The unique spoon-shaped bill of this species is also used in a courtship dance which includes nest material exchanges, dancing, and bill clapping. Roseate spoonbills typically don't breed until they reach 3 years old, at which time they have reached full size and have grown breeding plumage. The attractive feathers used to attract a breeding mate also attracted plume hunters and poachers in the 1800s that used the feathers to make fashion pieces such as ladies hats. By the 1930s, poaching and low reproductive success rates lead spoonbill population numbers to frop to an estimated 30 breeding pairs. Conservation efforts in the United States have allowed the species to reach an estimated 1000 breeding pairs along the Florida Coast, contributing to an estimated 4,000 total breeding pair population along the Gulf Coast of the United States including Texas and Louisiana populations. The biggest threat to the roseate spoonbill is now habitat loss, as coastal and estuary lands are drained for urban developments.

Facts About Roseate Spoonbill

Small aquatic animals
estuaries, marshes, and mangrove swamps
Up to 38 inches tall
47-52 inch wing span
weigh up to 4 pounds