Scientific Name: Platalea ajaja
Like many other birds with attractive feathers, the spoonbill was once hunted to near extinction. Since then, the roseate spoonbill has re-colonized many areas along the Gulf Coast. The biggest threat to the spoonbill today is the effects of habitat loss.
When you see a spoonbill, it is easy to see where its name comes from. Spoonbills have bills shaped like big wooden spoons, which they use to eat, swinging from side to side as they walk through the water grabbing tasty treats.
STATUS: The roseate spoonbill is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: The spoonbill inhabits areas along the Gulf Coast, including parts of the United States, South America, and the Caribbean. The birds flock to the bays, tidal ponds, sloughs, marshes, and estuaries of these areas, often in small groups.
DIET: Shrimp, fish, frogs, snails, aquatic insects, and other water creatures make up the diet of the spoonbill. These birds feed in the shallow waters of the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: In the wild or even in a zoo, the roseate spoonbill is hard to miss because of its bright pink back and wings, greenish head, white neck and back, red eyes, and grey, spoon-shaped bill. This multi-colored beauty has an average wingspan of 53 inches and is around 28 inches tall.
In the Pink
The roseate spoonbill’s most striking feature is the hot pink highlights on its back and wings; it comes from the food the spoonbill eats, namely shrimp. The coloring comes directly through the food chain: the spoonbill eats shrimp, the shrimp feed on algae, and the algae make carotenoids, which are red and yellow pigments. Many scientists believe that this carotenoid-rich diet causes the pink highlights on the roseate spoonbill, and the more shrimp a bird eats, the pinker it becomes.