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Roseate Spoonbill Fact File

Appearance

The roseate spoonbill is named for their vibrant pink coloration and grey, spoon-shaped bill. The bill is used to catch their food and the nostrils are at the base to prevent water entering while they run it through the water to find food. Their bill measures between 15 and 17cm long.

Their food is responsible for their coloration and as such it can vary with the foods they eat. Their bright pink color comes from crustaceans in their diet which have in turn feed on algae that have carotenoid pigments. Feather color brightens during breeding season.

Across the neck and back the feathers are white while on the face they are a yellow-green color. On the wings and their underside they are pink. The iris is colored red.

The wings and tail covert are red.

The legs are colored red and are long with dark feet which are semi-webbed to assist with wading.

An average roseate spoonbill will measure 75-85cm (28-33in) long and weigh 1.4kg (3lbs). Their wingspan can measure up to 120cm (4ft). Males are typically slightly larger than female roseate spoonbills.

Diet

The roseate spoonbill is a carnivore. Their diet is made up of fish, insects, crustaceans, snails and other aquatic animals. Small amounts of plant matter may be eaten but this is thought to be accidental.

Their bill is used to catch their food. They will run this from side to side through the water partially open and then snap it shut is a food item touches the sensitive nerve endings in the bill.

Feeding can take place in both salt or fresh water.

roseate spoonbill

Scientific Name

Platalea ajaja

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

1.4kg (3lbs)

Length

75-85cm (28-33in)

Wingspan

120cm (4ft)

Lifespan

Wild 10 years

Captive 15 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Range

Roseate spoonbills can be found across North, South and Central America along with Caribbean. Here they live in the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Habitat

They make their home at river mouths and in mangrove swamps, mud flats, wetlands and freshwater marshes.

roseate spoonbill

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Reproduction

Breeding is variable across their range. It occurs in winter in Florida and spring in Texas. Pairs do not mate for life but will remain together for the breeding season.

After gathering at the breeding site pairs will perform a courtship display to attract a mate. The female will sit alone on a perch and shake twigs or sticks in her bill when another spoonbill approaches. The males will fly towards her while bobbing their head and attempts to perch next to her. When he does they will form a pair.

They nest in mangroves, trees and reeds. Once the pair form the male will gather sticks and bring them to the female who will create the nest.

Between one and five eggs are laid in the nest. These are incubating for between 22 and 24 days. At birth the chick has a short, straight bill with the spoon shape starting to form at nine days old.

Both the mother and father will work together to feed and protect the chicks. They are fed with regurgitated food from their parents bill.

By six weeks old they start to fly and they are doing this well by eight weeks old.

Sexual maturity is reached at 3 years old though most will not mate till four years old.

Behavior

They spend most of their time in a flock which will feed, roost and fly together. Nesting occurs in a pair.

Roseate spoonbills will fly as a flock in long diagonal lines. In flight they have their necks and legs stretched out.

While feeding the roseate spoonbill makes a low, guttural call.

Whether or not they are migratory is dependent on the area they inhabit. Those from the tropics will remain in their habitat year-round while those in temperate and sub-tropical areas will undertake a migration to find food.

roseate spoonbill

Predators and Threats

Roseate spoonbills were hunted almost to extinction in the 1900s. Their feathers were valued for use in clothing and this lead to the species almost going extinct. Since earning full protection from hunting the population has rebounded and they have re-colonized areas where they went extinct.

Currently the main threat they face is habitat destruction. An evolving threat is egg shell thinning from pesticides.

Quick facts

They are one of six spoonbill species and the only one to live in the Americas.

roseate spoonbill

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Photo Credits

Used under license.

References

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Detwiler, R. 2000. "Ajaia ajaja" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 11, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ajaia_ajaja/

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2020. Roseate Spoonbill. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/roseate-spoonbill> [Accessed 12 October 2020].

Kaufman, K., 2020. Roseate Spoonbill. [online] Audubon. Available at: <https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/roseate-spoonbill> [Accessed 12 October 2020].

Stlzoo.org. 2020. Roseate Spoonbill | Saint Louis Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/abouttheanimals/birds/heronsflamingosibisspoonbi/roseatespoonbill> [Accessed 12 October 2020].

Tpwd.texas.gov. 2020. Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea Ajaja). [online] Available at: <https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/spoonbill/> [Accessed 12 October 2020].

Bouglouan, N., 2020. Roseate Spoonbill. [online] Oiseaux-birds.com. Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-roseate-spoonbill.html> [Accessed 12 October 2020].

Honolulu Zoo Society. 2020. Roseate Spoonbill - Honolulu Zoo Society. [online] Available at: <https://www.honoluluzoo.org/animals/roseate-spoonbill/#1554430978185-8e979d62-9340> [Accessed 12 October 2020].

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