Roseate spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill Birds: Distinctive and Fascinating

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The flamingo may be the most famous pink bird in the Americas but don’t forget about the roseate spoonbill.

The roseate spoonbill is a unique bird species. One of six spoonbills on the planet, it’s the only member of the genus Platalea that isn’t primarily white and the only one native to the western hemisphere.

What Does It Look Like?

Between their mostly pink bodies and their bill the shape of a wooden spoon, roseate spoonbills are typically pretty easy birds to identify.

They have white necks, pale green heads, and deeper pink feathers along the shoulders. Juveniles are likely to be a more pale pink, turning a richer color as they age.

Like flamingos, they get their color from the food they eat. Flamingos and spoonbills have several distinguishing characteristics aside from bill shape, as flamingos have longer, thinner necks and longer legs.

Range and Migration

The majority of the roseate spoonbill’s year-round range is in South America and the Caribbean, with their range extending into southern Florida and the coasts of Texas and Louisiana as well.

Many roseate spoonbills are year-round residents of their warm-climate homes, though some may move short distances from Texas into South and Central America during the winter.

According to the National Audubon Society, roseate spoonbills mostly breed during the winter in Florida and spring in Texas.

Habitat/Where To Find It

Within their range, spoonbills are most likely to be seen wading through shallow water in estuaries, wetlands, or swamps, swinging their spoon-shaped bills from side to side in search of food, including crustaceans, fish, and other aquatic invertebrates.

How Big Is It?

Roseate Spoonbill Birds

Spoonbills are sometimes seen in groups of other birds like ibises, egrets, and herons. They typically grow to just under three feet tall – shorter than a great blue heron but taller than the ibises.

This puts them just slightly shorter than the average great egret as well, but taller than smaller egrets like the cattle egret.

What Does It Sound Like?

According to the National Audubon Society, they’re mostly silent birds except for in breeding colonies, where they’ll make some noise when startled, greeting mates, or feeding their young.

When they do make noise, their most common call sounds like a deep cackle.

What Does It Eat?

Roseate spoonbills eat mostly small fish, invertebrates, and crustaceans, which release carotenoids that give the roseate spoonbill its pink color.

How Long Does It Live?

The oldest recorded roseate spoonbill was recaptured and released in Florida at 15 years and 10 months old as part of a scientific study, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department states that generally, they live as long as 10 years.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Are Roseate Spoonbills Common in Florida?

Roseate spoonbills were once nearly wiped out of the United States, but they’ve made a strong comeback.

By the 1930s, there were maybe as few as 30 to 40 breeding pairs in the keys of Florida Bay, according to Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.

Audubon Florida reported in 2019 that at least 2,368 breeding spoonbills had been recorded in the state, though it was estimated there could be double that.

Are Roseate Spoonbills Common in Texas?

Spoonbills can be found in bays and marshes near the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Like in Florida, they were at serious risk in Texas in the early 20th century.

A June 1920 survey reported just 179 non-breeding birds in Texas, according to the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas. By 1992, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department estimated about 2,300 breeding pairs.

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