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Bird Gallery

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbills
Roseate Spoonbills

© Wayne Nicholas

Ajaia ajaja

Family:  (Threskiornithidae) Ibises and Spoonbills

Preferred Habitat:  Coastal marshes.

Seasonal Occurrence:  Common in all seasons.

Notes: Often mistaken for a flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill has pink body feathers; pink legs; a white neck and back; an unfeathered, greenish head; red shoulders; an orange tail; and a long spoon-shaped bill. Juveniles are mostly white with pale pink wings and a white feathered head.

The exotic looking bird was hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s by plume hunters seeking their feathers for the millinery trade. Only 179 birds remained in Texas in 1920. Fortunately, Roseate Spoonbills were able to recolonize areas along the Gulf Coast, rebuild populations and make an excellent recovery.

In addition to their striking color and unusually shaped bill, the bird's odd feeding behavior, known as "head-swinging", also draws attention. Roseate Spoonbills forage by sweeping their bills in rapid arcs from side to side to stir shallow water into little whirlpools, which suck in aquatic organisms such as shrimp, small fish and aquatic invertebrates. Sensitive nerve endings along the bill's length detect vibrations and signal the bill to close quickly on the prey swept inside the spoon.

Roseate spoonbills are social birds, spending much of their time with other spoonbills and water birds, and nesting in colonies alongside ibises, storks, cormorants, herons, and egrets. The rookery at Houston Audubon's Smith Oaks Sanctuary is a great place to observe Roseate Spoonbills.

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