Roseate Spoonbill
Ajaia ajaja

CLASS: Aves
ORDER: Ciconiiformes
FAMILY: Threskiornithidae

SIZE:
30 - 32 inches

RANGE:
Southern U.S. and Chili (locally on the coasts of southern Florida, Louisiana, and Texas); also West Indies, Mexico, and Central and South America

HABITAT:
Mangroves

DIET:
Wild - Spend much time feeding on shrimp and fish in the shallow waters of Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico; crustaceans, mollusks, and insects

Zoo - Diet prepared by mixing water with a flamingo diet to make a soupy mixture; fish are also offered

DESCRIPTION:

  • Brilliant pink with white neck and back, orange tails, gray naked head; straight bills with broad spatulate tip (hence its name)
  • Identified as probably the most unique bird in Louisiana
  • Closely related to the ibises and are members of the order Ciconiiformes which includes herons, egrets, bitterns, storks, and flamingos

FACTS:

  • They obtain food by sweeping from side to side scooping up whatever they encounter
  • They are filter feeders
  • The bill is full of sensitive nerves that help the bird to identify food in murky water or dim light
  • Diet can vary with the season and locality

YOUNG:

  • 3-5 dull white eggs with spots and blotches are laid in a stick nest built in low dense brushes or trees
  • 21 day incubation period; spoonbill chicks are bright pink when they hatch but are soon covered with sparse white down
  • Chicks are ready to leave the nest (fledgling) by the 6th week; they are still fed by parents for several weeks and have to practice with their almost adult bills before they can easily feed themselves
  • Parents actually teach youngsters what to eat; they instinctively know how to use their sensitive bills

STATUS:
Early in the century their numbers were severely depleted by plume hunters but with protective laws they have increased once again. Once rare in the U.S., the species is now repopulating its former habitat along the Gulf Coast.