Roseate Spoonbill

ROSEATE SPOONBILL

 

*During the early 2000’s, Linda Adams, a former resident of TGO, wrote a series of articles for the TGO Nature Center titled “a Page From Nature”.  This article was a part of that series and was published in January 2002.  Since the original article did not include photos, I have added one from Hobie Kurtz to help you identify this beautiful bird. Enjoy!

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, The Great Outdoors, Titusville, Florida, Education, Birds, Bird, Roseate Spoonbill, Spoonbill, Pink Bird, Photo Album

Photo Courtesy of Hobie Kurtz

 

Spoonbill — common name for an ibis like bird, distinguished by the flat, spoon like form of the bill. The single American species, the roseate spoonbill, has the whole head naked, with pink and red wings and belly, and an orange tail. It inhabits lowland swamps, rivers, and lagoons from the Gulf States of the United States south through the West Indies to about the northern two-thirds of South America.

Spoonbills are strong flyers that, like cranes, keep their necks extended in flight. The birds are gregarious and nest in large colonies in trees near water, frequently in the company of ibises, herons, and other water birds.

The Roseate Spoonbill is found along the south Florida coast from the Florida Keys north to Tampa, with some populations in northeastern Florida and the eastern coast of Texas. A major period of decline for the spoonbill occurred in the early 1800’s when the wings of this beautiful creature were made into fans, a “regular article of trade” in St. Augustine, according to John Audubon. The millinery or “hat trade” also took a heavy toll on the spoonbill in the late 1800’s. Although their feathers were never in as great of demand as the plumes of the egrets because they faded, spoonbills were still slaughtered along with many plume birds, and their numbers declined. The establishment of Everglades National Park in 1947 seemed to have a positive affect on south Florida’s spoonbill population, which began reusing nesting sites that hadn’t been occupied since the late 1800’s.

Sandy Key (Everglades), ten miles southwest of Flamingo, is a hub of spoonbill activity during winter. Every evening, a few hundred spoonbills roost in the islands’ largest trees. At sunrise, the birds compete with the morning colors as they depart individually or in small flocks for the mainland.

One spoonbill travels northeast and passes directly over Eco Pond. “It’s a flamingo!” a few people exclaim from the viewing platform. The bird continues its flight to Mud Lake, a few miles further north, and settles down. It lowers its partially opened bill into the shallow, rust-colored water, and sweeps its head from side to side. Any small creatures, usually fish, which bump the edge of the bird’s sensitive mandibles, are captured with a snap of the bill.

Most Florida visitors are not familiar with Spoonbills. The first time they see this large pink wader from a distance, they are sure they are looking at a Flamingo. The Flamingo is much taller, and has an angled beak rather than the very flat, spoon-shaped beak of the Spoonbill.

The spoonbill is one of Florida’s most colorful birds. Not only can it be seen in the Florida Everglades but also if you visit wildlife refuges on Sanibel Island or Merritt Island, you will surely see them.

(Information Source: Florida’s Fabulous Birds, Encarta, and Everglades Nat. Park online)

(Column Prepared By: Linda Adams)

Fast Forward to 2014:  I have seen Roseate Spoonbills occasionally at the pond across from the bridge on the golf cart nature trail.  They can also be seen in different areas on Black Point Drive located in the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge which is where the photos on this page were taken.   If you haven’t driven Black Point, try to go in January and February as those are good months to see many migratory birds visiting us for the winter.

 

 

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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