This week’s featured Wading Bird is the gregarious and striking Roseate Spoonbill. (Last week’s wader, the Great Egret, can be found here).
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
- Pale pink plumage with brighter pink on their rumps and shoulders
- Distinct “spoon” at the end of a long bill
- Long, partially-feathered, white neck that is an “S”-shape at rest
- Small, yellowish-green heads with red eyes
- Even paler pink than the adults, almost white
- Completely feathered head for 3 years until adult plumage
- Resident: Florida, the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, coasts of Mexico, the Caribbean
- Short-Distance Migrant depending on changes in food source/water levels
Coastal marshes, mudflats, tidal ponds, lagoons, shallow water, both salt and fresh water.
Crustaceans, fish, aquatic insects. They forage by sweeping their partially opened bill in water less than 5 inches deep. They swallow their prey whole.
- Courtship: The males and females will begin their courtship with aggressive behavior, but later end up perching closely together. The pair will also clasp/cross their bills together and exchange sticks. Pairs last for one breeding season.
- Nesting Site: Colonial, usually with other waders such as ibises, herons, and egrets. Nest on islands, mangroves, or over water in the shadiest part of the tree.
- Young: 2-3 (sometimes 1-5) white eggs incubated by both parents for 22-24 days. 1 brood per year. Chicks are born with white natal down and fed by both parents. Young leave the nest around 5-6 weeks and flights occurs at 7-8 weeks.
Silent except at breeding colony. Grunting huh-huh-huh-huh. A low raspy rrek-ek-ek-ek.
Uncommon, but population has slightly increased in recent years. Threats include habitat degradation, human disturbance due to boating, water quality, and salinity of the water.
- When a flock of Roseate Spoonbills flies over feeding spoonbills, the feeding birds will “Sky Gaze”, a posture where they lift their bills and point them towards the sky.’
- They are pink in color due to their diet. The shrimp and other crustaceans they consume contain the carotenoind cantaxanthin.
- Roseate Spoonbills are the only spoonbill species (out of 6) to live in the Americas.