• Jeff

Roseate Spoonbill

The oldest recorded Roseate Spoonbill was at least 15 years, 10 months old when it was recaptured and re-released during a scientific study in Florida.

For most people, finding a Roseate Spoonbill requires a trip to the southeastern coast of the United States or even farther afield to Mexico or Central and South America. Look for groups of pink birds foraging in the shallows of fresh and saltwater, often with egrets and ibises nearby. They are usually busy foraging with their spoon-shaped bill under the water, so the bill might not be the first thing to tip you off. Unlike herons and egrets, they typically hold their bodies horizontally when foraging. This unique posture can help you pick them out from afar. If you don't catch them foraging check nearby mangrove, cypress, or willows for birds noisily roosting in trees.

The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. Groups sweep their spoonbills through shallow fresh or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish. They fly with necks outstretched, to and from foraging and nesting areas along the coastal southeastern U.S., and south to South America. These social birds nest and roost in trees and shrubs with other large wading birds.

The Roseate Spoonbill is 1 of 6 species of spoonbills in the world and the only one found in the Americas. The other 5 spoonbills (Eurasian, Royal, African, Black-faced, and Yellow-billed) occur in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia.

As humans, we are all too familiar with hair loss as we get older. Roseate Spoonbills, it turns out, are familiar with balding too, but instead of losing hair they lose feathers from the top of their head as they get older.

Roseate Spoonbill chicks don't have a spoon-shaped bill immediately after hatching. When they are 9 days old the bill starts to flatten, by 16 days it starts to look a bit more spoonlike, and by 39 days it is nearly full size.

Roseate Spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink.

Pictures by Jeff, from my backyard and surrounding area with my Canon SX70HS

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