Roseate Spoonbills

People sometimes ask why we go to Florida in the winter. To escape the cold is the obvious answer, but there’s more to it. Florida has wonderful opportunities for viewing and getting up close to all sorts of wildlife, especially birds. Two times this week (a morning walk close to our house on Sunday, and a kayaking outing today) resulted in spoonbill sightings. These sightings were not just a flash of pink flying the other direction (what typically happens), but prolonged observations while they hunted for food. I thought I was in bird watching heaven, a feeling comparable to sighting a rare orchid in northern Minnesota.

pink bird with spoon shaped billLet’s see. Why are these birds called spoonbills? Oh yea, it’s the spoon-shaped bill. When seen from a distance they are sometimes confused with flamingos due to similarities in their colors. Flamingos, however, have an angled beak and are taller.

spoon shaped beak of spoonbill

The spoonbill swishes its beak from side to side in shallow water. Its beak has special nerve endings that sense when it has come across small fish, shrimp, or aquatic insects. The large beak closes around the food and filters it from the silty water.

Spoonbill using beak to feedSpoonbills were almost extinct at one point. In the late 1800’s their colorful plumes were used in hats and their wings were used for fans. The value of their feathers caused them to be over-hunted till the mid 20th century. Now they are making a comeback, although still considered a species of “special concern”. The biggest threat to their future is loss of habitat. The coastal marshlands where they breed and hunt for food are disappearing due to development and pollution. The marshlands are important to not only the spoonbills, but all their wading bird friends (wood storks, snowy egrets, great egrets, herons, etc.)

Spoonbills with wood stork and other white birds

~ by Pinetree Photo Nature Discovery on January 8, 2013.

10 Responses to “Roseate Spoonbills”

  1. What colorful markings on a rather odd looking bird. Sounds like you had a perfect day for bird watching and our weather has made it even more enjoyable.

  2. Isn’t it too bad that as children we thought of ‘swamps’ as bad, or at the very least nonentities. Thank you for sharing the Spoonbills story and beautiful photos.

  3. Nice shots ma! I saw one of those during my kayak with dad the morning before I left. We didn’t get nearly this close though.

  4. It is wonderful to see these spectacular birds, Carol.

  5. Carol, these are great photos. Spoonbills seem to be doing well in our area. I frequently see them near Ding Darling while fishing.

  6. Wonderful Carol – how lucky you were indeed to see the spoonbills anywhere but at Ding Darling. I couldn’t agree more that Florida has so much more to offer than warm weather!

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