Roseate Spoonbill Pocket Journal

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Model: PJ-62
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Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja)

The roseate spoonbill resembles a cartoon caricature with its bright pink body, red shoulders, orange tail, long pink legs, and spatulate bill.  A delight to see in the wild, these gregarious wading birds feed in marshes, mudflats, and mangrove swamps.  Sweeping their long, sensitive spoonbills in wide arcs from side to side, they grasp small fish, insects and crustaceans.  Sporting 4½ foot wingspans, they fly with steady, flapping wing beats and short glides, holding their necks outstretched and legs extended.

Roseate spoonbills exhibit elaborate courtship displays, with the male presenting sticks to the female while vigorously tossing its head and making grunting calls.  The female awkwardly takes the stick in her flattened bill, and this action maintains the pair bond.  The male continues to bring nesting materials with much bill clapping while the female builds a large bulky nest with a deep hollow center, lined with twigs and leaves.  She lays 1-5 white eggs, and the male and female share in incubation and feeding the young.

In the early 1900’s this unique species seemed doomed, its population decimated by the feather trade and drainage of its breeding wetlands in Florida and the Gulf Coast.  Under rigid protection, populations are gradually increasing, but still threatened by habitat destruction and development.  We know the mangrove swamps and estuaries they depend on are also nurseries for the fish, crabs, and shellfish we enjoy.  As we save habitat for this specialized, humorous bird, we also protect the food chain for ourselves.

artwork by John Sill, text by Kara Jean Hagedorn

Tags: birds,