‘IN THE PINK’: ROSEATE SPOONBILLS IN THE BAHAMAS
ROSEATE SPOONBILLS (Platalea ajaja) are rare visitors to the Northern Bahamas. For Abaco they are classified with the undignified term ‘vagrant’, meaning essentially (a) that you will be very lucky indeed to encounter one, so therefore (b) it is highly unlikely to be worth making a special trip based on the likelihood of seeing one. Try Florida instead.
We saw one once when bonefishing far out on the Marls. It was unmistakeable, but well beyond the effective range of the puny ‘don’t-really-mind-if-it-takes-a-dive’ camera I had with me. The spoonbills in this post were photographed elsewhere in the Bahamas or in two cases, Florida. The wonderful one below of a spoonbill ‘flipping’ a fish was taken there by Ohio bird expert and photographer Tom Sheley.
SPOONBILLS LOOK VERY DRAMATIC IN FLIGHT
Unlike herons, spoonbills keep their necks outstretched in flight. They are most likely to be found in marshes, salt-water lagoons and on mudflats. They are gregarious and mix in happily with herons and egrets, though there is some competition for food. Spoonbills nest in shrubs or trees, often mangroves.
Spoonbills tend to get pinker as they get older. As with American Flamingos, the pink colouring derives from their diet, which contains carotenoid pigments. The colouring ranges from pale pink to loud pinks and reds, depending on age and location.
Spoonbills feed in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging their bill from side to side while steadily walking through the water, often in groups. The spoon-shaped bill allows it to sift easily through mud for the edible contents – crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and small fish ignored by larger waders. This excellent 1 minute Audubon video shows exactly how they feed, with some white ibises for company.
NEW ADDITION (props to Roselyn Pierce)
And a short non-roseate spoonbill feeding video from the Netherlands June 2014, showing the technique
Photo Credits: Header, Wiki; 1,3,4,5 Woody Bracey; 2 Tom Sheley, 6 Bruce Hallett (RH: nil)
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Thanks for the ‘pingback’ with the roseate spoonbills! RH
I always enjoy seeing my goofy pink friends the Spoonies!
They are rare on Abaco (Northern Bahamas) these days, sadly, and tend to stick to remote places. These ones were shot in Nassau (not by me, I hasten to add) and were sadly ineligible for my new “Birds of Abaco” book in which I only included birds that I knew for sure had been photo’d on the island… Pity! RH
Now that last photo would’ve been a contender for your February 14th post, RH. 😉
You win ‘saucy comment of the month’ for that, Lucy. But they are going a bit too far, maybe – well beyond the ‘Clinton Card’ standard range? Or trying to, anyway… 😎
Beautiful photographs and fascinating animals
Aren’t they great? I just wish some of those pics had been mine, but I’ve never got close enough to one… RH
What beautiful birds!
Wonderful, aren’t they! RH
Beautiful birds! From March 15 to May 15 they roost at High Island, just north of Galveston, Texas. There may be 1000 of them on any day, mixed with a few white egrets. They have flown 600 miles across the gulf and High Island is the first sign they have of fresh water and a place to rest in their migration.
Interesting, Roselyn. And thanks for the wonderful spoonbill pair you posted on my FB page. I might move them here! RH