THE BIRDS OF FLORIDA PT 2. - THE ROSEATE SPOONBILL

January 16, 2015  •  4 Comments

 

The Roseate Spoonbill was a bird I did not know about before I moved to Florida and another great reason to move here. The Roseate is a bird that people mistake for a flamingo because of their bright pink color. You would think that its pink coloring would be its most distinctive characteristic but it is not.The most distinctive characteristic of the roseate spoonbill is its long spoon-shaped bill, as you can see in the image above that is one strange looking bill but highly efficient. Spoonbills consume a varied diet of small fish, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, and some plant material. They feed in the early morning and evening hours by wading through shallow water with their bills partially submerged. As a Roseate Spoonbill walks it swings its head back and forth in a sideways motion. When the bird feels a prey item it snaps its bill closed, pulls the prey out of the water, and swallows it.

Other characteristics is its  white head and chest and light pink wings with a darker pink fringe and very long pink legs. The roseate spoonbill is about two and a half feet in length with a wingspan of about four and a half feet. Both males and females have the same plumage and coloring. The male is slightly larger than the female and its bill is a little longer.

The roseate spoonbill nests in colonies. Males and females pair off for the breeding season and build a nest together. They build large nests of sticks lined with grass and leaves. The nests are built in trees. The female spoonbill lays two to four eggs. Both the female and the male incubate the eggs. The chicks hatch in about three weeks and fledge in around 35 to 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. A great place to see them up close is at the St.Augustine's Alligator Farm. They have a rookery and during the months from March through August many of the great birds we see in Florida, including the Spoonbill can be seen there as they fly in and out building their nest, hatching their eggs and feeding the chicks till they are ready to fly off. There is an admission fee but if you are a Nature photographer or just want to see these birds up close it is well worth the cost. But you can also see them in many areas of Florida and in many communities or wetlands

This image was taken at a pond in my community in Port Saint Lucie about a mile walk from my house. 

The roseate spoonbill can be found on the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and southern Florida. It is also found in the tropics and in Central and South America. If you live anywhere in these areas, they live in mangrove swamps, tidal ponds, saltwater lagoons and other areas with brackish water, go and look for them. They will not disappoint, as you can see in these images.

 
Most spoonbills do not breed until they enter their third year. Courtship displays include ritualized exchanges of nest material, dancing and bill clapping. Copulation occurs at the nest site. The female builds a strong cup nest of sticks and twigs utilizing materials brought to her by the male. The Florida population prefers to nest in red and black mangroves, sometimes in conjunction with Wood Storks and herons. The Texas and Louisiana populations often nest on the ground in off-shore island mixed colonies with gulls, terns, and herons.
The female lays three cream colored eggs marked with darker brown spots. Incubation takes 22 to 24 days, with both parents sharing the incubation duties. The newly hatched chick appears to be mostly pink skin with a sparse covering of white down and an orange bill, legs and feet. The parents feed the chick by dribbling regurgitated material into their upturned bills. At one month of age the partially feathered chick begins to exercise by clambering about in the branches or foliage surrounding the nest. They fledge at six weeks of age.
 
The lovely pink feathers of the Roseate Spoonbill were highly prized for use in the construction of ladies' fans at the turn of the century. This made Spoonbills one of the favorite targets of the professional plume hunters that decimated so many species of wading birds. By the 1930's the once thriving Florida population had dropped to an historic low of 30 to 40 breeding pairs, nesting only in a few small colonies on the keys of Florida Bay. Once they gained full legal protection from hunting the species began to rebound.
Now over a thousand pairs nest in Florida. The ground nesting colonies in Texas and Louisiana are extremely vulnerable to any predator that can make its way to their off shore islands. Entire colonies have been known to shift locations. As suitable sites become increasingly scarce due to coastal development birds may be forced to continue to nest in vulnerable sites. Some populations show high levels of pesticide levels in their eggs but they do not appear to be significantly impaired by egg shell thinning at this time.
 We as a people need to keep protecting these beautiful birds, as well as all the other amazing birds that we write about. There is something so beautiful as seeing a Roseate Spoonbill flying in our deep blues skies here in Florida. Come to Florida and see why many of us that live here call it Paradise, especially for the Nature Lovers !!!

 


Comments

Harry Selsor(non-registered)
Love the photos..one of the reasons I took up bird photography is when six of these showed up on the dock one day..
Fran Hufffer(non-registered)
I have never seen a more informative narrative and the photography is breathtaking! Thank you for sharing!
Tameka M.(non-registered)
What a beautiful bird! Your description and information was fascinating as well. I would love to see these birds in person one day. Lovely photos!
Carl(non-registered)
wow, what a great collection of spoonbill images. lots of great eye presentations.
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