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Overview

Brief Summary

The colonially nesting Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) is a medium-sized, pink-bodied, ibis-like bird with a flat spatula-shaped bill. These birds are found in the southeastern United States and West Indies through Mexico and Central America to South America, where they are distributed south to northern Argentina east of the Andes and western Ecuador and northwestern Peru west of the Andes. They are uncommon to locally common throughout their extensive range. Throughout much of their range, the species is apparently declining as a result of habitat alteration, hunting, and pollution. In the United States, Roseate Spoonbills were common along the Gulf Coast in the early 19th Century, but were almost exterminated in the 1930s by intense persecution and destruction of wading bird colonies for the plume trade starting in the 1880s. They were legally protected in the 1940s, after which populations recovered somewhat, but declines apparently followed later in the 20th century as a consequence of mosquito control programs and alteration of breeding and feeding habitats.

These highly gregarious waders often feed by sweeping the bill side to side, sifting through mud as they walk through shallow water. Their diet includes small fishes and aquatic invertebrates, as well as some plant material. They are found in coastal marshes, lagoons, mudflats, and mangrove keys, foraging in both salt and fresh water. Flocks typically include fewer than half a dozen individuals, but they are often associated with other wading birds as well. In courtship, male and female spoonbills first interact aggressively, then perch close together, presenting sticks to each other and crossing and clasping bills. They typically nest in mangroves or other trees and shrubs 5 to 15 feet above ground or water, but sometimes nest on the ground. The nest, a bulky platform of sticks with a deep twig- and leaf-lined center, is built mainly by the female with material brought by the male. Clutch size is 2 to 3 eggs (range 1 to 5). The white eggs are spotted with brown. Eggs are incubated (by both sexes) for 22 to 24 days. Both parents feed the young. Young may leave the nest after 5 to 6 weeks and are capable of strong flight at around 7 to 8 weeks. Roseate Spoonbills are mostly silent, but make a soft frog-like croak when disturbed.

(Matheu and del Hoyo 1992; Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunne 2006)

  • Matheu, E. and J. del Hoyo. 1992. Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills) P. 506 in: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  • Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • American Ornithologists’ Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Dunne, P. 2006. Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
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The colonially nesting Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) is a medium-sized, pink-bodied, ibis-like bird with a flat spatula-shaped bill. These birds are found in the southeastern United States and West Indies through Mexico and Central America to South America, where they are distributed south to northern Argentina east of the Andes and in western Ecuador and northwestern Peru west of the Andes. They are uncommon to locally common throughout their extensive range. Throughout much of their range, the species is apparently declining as a result of habitat alteration, hunting, and pollution. In the United States, Roseate Spoonbills were common along the Gulf Coast in the early 19th Century, but were almost exterminated in the 1930s by intense persecution and destruction of wading bird colonies for the plume trade starting in the 1880s. They were legally protected in the 1940s, after which populations recovered somewhat, but declines apparently followed later in the 20th century as a consequence of mosquito control programs and alteration of breeding and feeding habitats.

These highly gregarious waders feed by sweeping the bill side to side, often sifting through mud as they walk through shallow water. Their diet includes small fishes and aquatic invetebrates, as well as some plant material. They are found in coastal marshes, lagoons, mudflats, and mangrove keys, foraging in both salt and fresh water. Flocks typically include fewer than half a dozen individuals, but they are often associated with other wading birds as well. In courtship, male and female spoonbills first interact aggressively, then perch close together, presenting sticks to each other and crossing and clasping bills. They typically nest in mangroves or other trees and shrubs 5 to 15 feet above ground or water, but sometimes nest on the ground. The nest, a bulky platform of sticks with a deep twig- and leaf-lined center, is built mainly by the female with material brought by the male, Clutch size is 2 to 3 eggs, (range 1 to 5). The white eggs are spotted with brown. Eggs are incubated (by both sexes) for 22 to 24 days. Both parents feed the young. Young may leave the nest after 5 to 6 weeks and are capable of strong flight at around 7 to 8 weeks. .Roseate Spoonbils are mostly silent, but make a soft froglike croak when disturbed.

(Matheu and del Hoyo 1992; Kaufman 1996; AOU 1998; Dunne 2006)

  • American Ornithologists’ Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Dunne, P. 2006. Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.Kaufman, K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Matheu, E. and J. del Hoyo. 1992. Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills) P. 506 in: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
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Comprehensive Description

The roseate spoonbill, Ajaia ajaia, is one of 14 species in the Order Ciconiiformes, or long legged wading birds. The spoonbill grows to approximately 32" in height (81 cm), with a wingspan of 53 inches (1.35 m) (Farrand 1988; Amos and Amos 1997). In adults, the head, neck, breast and upper back of A. ajaia are white; while its wings, lower back and legs are bright pink. A distinctive red band is prominent on the wing coverts, while the tail of the mature animal is orange. Juvenile birds appear generally white or pale pink in color and have a feathered head (Farrand 1988). The bill of A. ajaia is long and flat, with a spoon-tipped bill, a specialized adaptation for tactile feeding.
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Distribution

Geographic Range

Roseate spoonbills occur from southern Georgia and Florida, south through Central American, the Caribbean, and South America to Argentina.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Resident locally from northern Sinaloa, Gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana, and southern Florida (as far north as Tampa Bay on Gulf Coast) south locally along both coasts of Middle America and through Greater Antilles, and Bahamas to Uruguay, central Chile, and central Argentina. About 80% of U.S. breeders occur in southern Florida (24%) and eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana (46%) (Spendelow and Patton 1988). In the U.S., the highest winter densities occur on the Gulf coast of Texas and western Louisiana and in southern Florida (Root 1988). Wanders outside usual range.

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Range

S US to n Argentina, Brazil and West Indies.

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A. ajaia occurs from southeastern Georgia and Florida through the Gulf of Mexico, south to Argentina (Le Grand 1980; Robertson et al. 1983), with Cuba potentially being an area that acts as a source population for some sub-adult birds that eventually arrive in Florida Bay (Allen 1942; Robertson 1983). The Florida population is distinctive from the Texas and Louisiana populations. A. ajaia occurs lagoon-wide, but is most common in the estuaries surrounding the Cape Canaveral area.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

The upper neck and back of the Roseate Spoonbill are white. The wings and the under parts are a shade of light rose. The wings and the tail coverts are a deep carmine. The legs and the iris are red in color. Parts of the Spoonbills head is a distinct yellow-green. The most distinctive feature on the Spoonbill, is the spoon-like bill itself. The bill, which is spoon-like in shape from birth, flattens out at the end to aid in feeding. The Spoonbill is about 32" in length.

Average mass: 1036.97 g.

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Size

Length: 81 cm

Weight: 1496 grams

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The roseate spoonbill, Ajaia ajaia, grows to a height of approximately 32 inches (81 cm), with a wingspan of 53 inches (1.3 m) (Farrand 1988).
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Diagnostic Description

No other large wading bird in the New World has a spatulate bill.

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Look Alikes

From a distance, A. ajaia can be confused with the greater flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber, due to the similarity of body color in both species. However, the roseate spoonbill is generally smaller than the flamingo, with a shorter neck, and a longer, spoon-shaped bill.
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Ecology

Habitat

Marismas Nacionales-San Blas Mangroves Habitat

This taxon is found in the Marismas Nacionales-San Blas mangroves ecoregion contains the most extensive block of mangrove ecosystem along the Pacific coastal zone of Mexico, comprising around 2000 square kilometres. Mangroves in Nayarit are among the most productive systems of northwest Mexico. These mangroves and their associated wetlands also serve as one of the most important winter habitat for birds in the Pacific coastal zone, by serving about eighty percent of the Pacific migratory shore bird populations.

Although the mangroves grow on flat terrain, the seven rivers that feed the mangroves descend from mountains, which belong to the physiographic province of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The climate varies from temperate-dry to sub-humid in the summer, when the region receives most of its rainfall (more than 1000 millimetres /year).

Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans), Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) and White Mangrove trees (Laguncularia racemosa) occur in this ecoregion. In the northern part of the ecoregion near Teacapán the Black Mangrove tree is dominant; however, in the southern part nearer Agua Brava, White Mangrove dominates. Herbaceous vegetation is rare, but other species that can be found in association with mangrove trees are: Ciruelillo (Phyllanthus elsiae), Guiana-chestnut (Pachira aquatica), and Pond Apple (Annona glabra).

There are are a number of reptiles present, which including a important population of Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) and American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) in the freshwater marshes associated with tropical Cohune Palm (Attalea cohune) forest. Also present in this ecoregion are reptiles such as the Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), Mexican Beaded Lizard (Heloderma horridum) and Yellow Bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta). Four species of endangered sea turtle use the coast of Nayarit for nesting sites including Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas).

A number of mammals are found in the ecoregion, including the Puma (Puma concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Southern Pygmy Mouse (Baiomys musculus), Saussure's Shrew (Sorex saussurei). In addition many bat taxa are found in the ecoregion, including fruit eating species such as the Pygmy Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus phaeotis); Aztec Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus aztecus) and Toltec Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus toltecus); there are also bat representatives from the genus myotis, such as the Long-legged Myotis (Myotis volans) and the Cinnamon Myotis (M. fortidens).

There are more than 252 species of birds, 40 percent of which are migratory, including 12 migratory ducks and approximately 36 endemic birds, including the Bumblebee Hummingbird, (Atthis heloisa) and the Mexican Woodnymph (Thalurania ridgwayi). Bojórquez considers the mangroves of Nayarit and Sinaloa among the areas of highest concentration of migratory birds. This ecoregion also serves as wintering habitat and as refuge from surrounding habitats during harsh climatic conditions for many species, especially birds; this sheltering effect further elevates the conservation value of this habitat.

Some of the many representative avifauna are Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), sanderling (Calidris alba), American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), Mexican Jacana (Jacana spinosa), Elegant Trogan (Trogan elegans), Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Plain-capped Starthroat (Heliomaster constantii), Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) and Wood Stork (Mycteria americana).

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Moist Pacific Coast Mangroves Habitat

This taxon occurs in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves, an ecoregion along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica with a considerable number of embayments that provide shelter from wind and waves, thus favouring mangrove establishment. Tidal fluctuations also directly influence the mangrove ecosystem health in this zone. The Moist Pacific Coast mangroves ecoregion has a mean tidal amplitude of three and one half metres,

Many of the streams and rivers, which help create this mangrove ecoregion, flow down from the Talamanca Mountain Range. Because of the resulting high mountain sediment loading, coral reefs are sparse along the Pacific coastal zone of Central America, and thus reef zones are chiefly found offshore near islands. In this region, coral reefs are associated with the mangroves at the Isla del Caño Biological Reserve, seventeen kilometres from the mainland coast near the Térraba-Sierpe Mangrove Reserve. The Térraba-Sierpe, found at the mouths of the Térraba and Sierpe Rivers, is considered a wetland of international importance.

Because of high moisture availability, the salinity gradient is more moderate than in the more northern ecoregion such as the Southern dry Pacific Coast ecoregion. Resulting mangrove vegetation is mixed with that of marshland species such as Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis), Campnosperma panamensis, Guinea Bactris (Bactris guineensis), and is adjacent to Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera) swamp forest, which provides shelter for White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and Mantled Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata). Mangrove tree and shrub taxa include Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Mangle Caballero (R. harrisonii) R. racemosa (up to 45 metres in canopy height), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and Mangle Salado (A. bicolor), a mangrove tree restricted to the Pacific coastline of Mesoamerica.

Two endemic birds listed by IUCN as threatened in conservation status are found in the mangroves of this ecoregion, one being the Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi EN), whose favourite flower is the Tea Mangrove (Pelliciera rhizophorae), the sole mangrove plant pollinated by a vertebrate. Another endemic avain species to the ecoregion is the  Yellow-billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae EN).  Other birds clearly associated with the mangrove habitat include Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Gray-necked Wood Rail (Aramides cajanea), Rufous-necked Wood Rail (A. axillaris), Mangrove Black-hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus subtilis),Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata), Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius cochlearius), American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona), Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus minor), Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia), and Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus VU) among other avian taxa.

Mammals although not as numerous as birds, include species such as the Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), White-throated Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus), Central American Otter (Lontra longicaudis annectens), White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), feeds on leaves within A. bicolor and L. racemosa forests. Two raccoons: Northern Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and Crab-eating Raccoon (P. cancrivorus) can be found, both on the ground and in the canopy consuming crabs and mollusks. The Mexican Collared Anteater (Tamandua mexicana) is also found in the Moist Pacific Coast mangroves.

There are a number of amphibians in the ecoregion, including the anuran taxa: Almirante Robber Frog (Craugastor talamancae); Chiriqui Glass Frog (Cochranella pulverata); Forrer's Grass Frog (Lithobates forreri), who is found along the Pacific versant, and is at the southern limit of its range in this ecoregion. Example salamanders found in the ecoregion are the Colombian Worm Salamander (Oedipina parvipes) and the Gamboa Worm Salamander (Oedipina complex), a lowland organism that is found in the northern end of its range in the ecoregion. Reptiles including the Common Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor), American Crocodile (Crocodilus acutus), Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Black Spiny-tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) and Common Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) thrive in this mangrove ecoregion.

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Comments: Marshes, swamps, ponds, rivers, and lagoons (AOU 1983); also tidal flats. Seems to prefer brackish waters and coastal bays in Florida and Texas, freshwater marshes in Louisiana (Spendelow and Patton 1988). Wherever shallow, open, still or slow-flowing water occurs (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Nests in mangroves (e.g., Florida), in low bushes along coastal islands and on ground on treeless spoil banks along waterways (e.g., Texas and Louisiana).

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Roseate spoonbills are usually found in marsh like areas, especially mangrove swamps and mud flats. Spoonbills create large, deep, well-constructed nests out of sticks, much like the nests of herons, in mangrove trees.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: brackish water

Wetlands: marsh

Other Habitat Features: estuarine

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Some birds migrate between Texas-Louisiana and Mexico and between Florida and Cuba. In Costa Rica, pronounced seasonal movements reflect changes in water level (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats small fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects; forages in shallow water (Palmer 1962); sometimes stirs up bottom mud with feet to flush prey.

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Food Habits

The Roseate Spoonbill feeds in a special way. It uses its spoon-like bill to scoop various things from shallow water. By swishing the bill back and forth in the water, the Spoonbill is able to pick up minnows, small crustaceans, bits of plants and insects. The Spoonbill usually feeds in shallow, muddy water, usually found around its marshy or mangrove infested environment. While feeding, Spoonbills utter a low, gutteral sound.

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A. ajaia is a heterotroph that feeds on small fishes, shrimps, crabs and other epibenthic and benthic species. It feeds by moving its bill slowly through the water as it wades, straining out food items, and occasionally snapping its bill closed upon detecting larger prey (Farrand 1988).
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Associations

A. ajaia is found nesting with wood storks (Mycteria americana)(Leber 1980), great egrets (Casmerodius albus), great blue herons (Ardea herodias), snowy egrets (Egretta thula), cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis), tricolored herons (Hydranassa tricolor), black crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), and laughing gulls (Laras atricilla).
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Coastal U.S. breeding population: Florida coast = 1500, Gulf Coast = about 4200 (Spendelow and Patton 1988).

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The breeding population of the roseate spoonbill in Florida numbered as few as 30 pairs in 1942 (Allen 1942). The species was nearly extirpated from Florida and Texas from the late 1800s through the mid-1930s (Powell et al. 1989) due to the impacts of human harvesting for both food and feathers for the millinery trade. Following protection efforts, spoonbills reestablished small populations that grew quickly. By 1978, the Florida population had increased to approximately 1400 pairs (Robertson et al. 1983). However, later surveys (Powell et al. 1989) reported the number of breeding pairs in Florida Bay to be 400-450, and a recent Everglades National Park publication estimates only 100 - 200 breeding pairs in Florida Bay. In Texas, a 1979 survey estimated the number of breeding pairs at 2,500 (Blacklock et al. 1979).
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General Ecology

Gregarious; usually feeds, roosts and nests in groups or flocks (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Forages primarily at night but also during daylight in Florida Bay (Powell 1987).

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
28 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
190 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 28 years
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Reproduction

Clutch size usually is 2-3. Incubation lasts 23-24 days, by both sexes. Young are tended by both parents, leave nest at 5-6 weeks, fly well at 7-8 weeks, fed until about the eighth week.

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Average time to hatching: 23 days.

Average eggs per season: 3.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
1095 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
1095 days.

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In some areas, the breeding season of A. ajaia is somewhat influenced by local rainfall patterns (Leber 1980). In a Costa Rican study, for example, Leber (1980) observed that both roseate spoonbills and wood storks nest during months when rainfall totals begin to decrease. Kahl (1964) suggested this pattern may be related to the increase of food availability to both adults and chicks as water levels in estuaries decrease throughout the dry season. In Florida, spoonbills commonly nest among several other species of wading birds. Spoonbills arrive in the nesting colony between October and December (Leber 1980; Robertson et al 1983) and leave the area by late March or April (Roberston 1983), with nesting having no apparent correlation to rainfall patterns. In Texas, breeding adults begin to congregate in mid-March. Pairing begins by mid-April, and nesting by late April or early May. Egg laying generally occurs in mid-May.In Costa Rica, spoonbill nest density in a mixed colony was approximately 2.2 nests per square meter in the preferred core area of the colony, versus only 0.8 nests per square meter at the periphery of the colony (Leber 1980). Nests are built in mangroves or other available trees and shrubs, and are usually located within 1 meter of the main trunk of the tree. Nest height averages approximately 2.7 m above the ground in Costa Rica (Leber 1980), while those in Texas were observed at lower heights, primarily within 1 meter of the ground (White et al. 1982). Nests are often concealed by overhead vegetation (Leber 1980) and are constructed of plant material that is abundant near the nest site. Dead twigs form a platform approximately 0.5 m in width upon which live and dead stems of other vegetation are laid to a depth of approximately 6 cm (White et al. 1982). Activities of the nesting pair eventually form a shallow depression in the nest into which the female lays its eggs.Clutch size in Florida populations of A. ajaia averages between 1.9 - 3.3 eggs per clutch (Leber 1980), while in the Texas population, 2 - 4 eggs per clutch is common (White et al. 1982).Eggs are incubated 22 - 23 days, and young fledge between 35 - 42 days. One brood per year is produced.Nest success in spoonbills is known to vary from year to year depending upon environmental conditions. No figures are available for hatching success in Florida; however, in Costa Rica, hatching success averages approximately 74%, among the highest rates for large wading birds. In Texas, hatching success has averaged 73%, with nest success as high as 87% (White et al. 1982). Much of the mortality among eggs is accounted for by failure of the eggs to hatch, and to death within the first 2 weeks of life (Rodgers 1980; White et al. 1982). Adults startled from nests can often brush or kick eggs and chicks out of the nest. Allen (1942) observed that spoonbills were highly sensitive to disturbances around the nest site, with frequent disturbance sometimes leading to a complete disruption of the breeding cycle and abandonment of the nest. Additionally, snakes and avian predators such as vultures and even pelicans have been observed preying upon both eggs and chicks. White et al. (1982) observed that the mortality rate among nestlings in Texas averaged 32% over 3 years, with most nestlings lost within 2 weeks of hatching. They estimated that half of the chicks were lost to predators, or to other unobserved causes, while half were found dead in or near the nest.
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Growth

The incubation period in Ajaia ajaia lasts 22-24 days, with adult females laying one egg every other day (Allen 1942; White et al. 1982). Eggs hatch in the order in which they were laid, with chicks hatching every other day (White et al. 1982). At hatching, chicks weigh approximately 50 g, and tend to gain an additional 9 g over the next several days. After about day 4, however, they rapidly gain weight; and by day 16 they achieve approximately half adult weight (White et al. 1982).Chicks fledge at approximately 6 weeks of age, and by early July, the young hatched in late April are able to fly several hundred meters under their own power. Birds begin to disperse from the nesting area by early August, with few remaining at the end of September (White et al. 1982).The skin, jaws and legs of newly hatched chicks are a uniform pink color, the feather tracts covered by thick white down that dries and becomes fluffy within 12 hours after hatching. 2 days after hatching, the eyes open. Feather development begins with the emergence of the feather sheaths of the flight feathers at about day 5. The rest of the body remains covered in down for approximately 3 weeks, and at this time the feather sheaths of the other major feathers begins to emerge. Feather growth takes 3 weeks to complete, with full development being complete 42 days after hatching (White et al. 1982). By this time, they young are fully capable of flight and are thus considered fledged. Full adult plumage does not appear until juveniles are approximately 3 years old, but there is significant variation among individuals (White et al. 1982).Interestingly, bill morphology of hatchlings is not the characteristic spoon-shaped bill found in adults (White et al. 1982). Rather, young chicks have short, soft bills that are somewhat leathery. The bill tip begins to widen at 9 days of age, and by 16 days, it takes on the shape of the adult bill, and continues to lengthen as the chick ages.Organochlorides such as DDE and PCBs have been shown to be the primary pollutants which occur in A. ajaia eggs. White et al. (1982) found DDE present in all eggs analyzed, while PCBs were present in 90% of samples. Generally, organochloride levels tended to be under 2 ppm, though some spoonbill eggs contained more than 15 ppm. Eggshell thickness was shown to be approximately 5% thinner than in the pre-DDT age, but no biological significance was assigned to this finding, as it was determined that the percentage difference was within the range of intraclutch variation (White et al. 1982). Spoonbills appear to be somewhat less sensitive to organochloride pollution that certain other species such as the brown pelican. Pelicans suffer nest failure when eggs contain a concentration of DDE greater than 2.5 ppm. While over 30% of the eggs in the White et al. (1982) study had DDE levels higher than 2.5 ppm, and some eggshell thinning was detected, no population declines or major reproductive failures were observed.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Bill used to filter: roseate spoonbill
 

The long, spatulate bill of the roseate spoonbill aids in filter feeding as it is swept, partially open, from side to side in the water.

   
  "The roseate spoonbill has a slightly specialized bill. As it feeds, it sweeps its partly open bill from side to side, filtering crustaceans from the water." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:157)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Platalea ajaja

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTGTACCTAATTTTCGGCGCATGAGCTGGCATAGTTGGAACCGCACTCAGTCTACTCATCCGTGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCAGGAACACTCCTAGGAGACGACCAAATCTACAACGTAATCGTCACAGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATTTTCTTTATAGTAATACCAATCATAATTGGTGGGTTTGGCAACTGACTAGTCCCACTTATAATTGGTGCACCCGACATAGCATTCCCACGTATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTATTGCCCCCCTCATTCTTACTCCTTCTAGCTTCATCCACAGTAGAAGCAGGGGCGGGTACTGGATGAACCGTATACCCACCACTCGCTGGCAACCTCGCCCACGCCGGAGCCTCAGTTGACCTGGCCATCTTCTCACTTCACCTAGCAGGTGTGTCATCCATCTTAGGGGCAATCAACTTTATCACAACTGCCATCAATATAAAACCACCAGCCCTTTCACAATACCAAACGCCCCTGTTCGTCTGATCAGTCCTAATTACTGCCGTCCTACTGCTACTCTCACTACCGGTCCTCGCTGCCGGCATCACCATGCTACTAACAGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTCGACCCAGCCGGAGGAGGAGACCCAGTCCTATACCAGCACCTANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Platalea ajaja

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Very large range, locally fairly common. Secure on a global basis, but regional trends are unknown for most areas.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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In the middle of the century, Roseate Spoonbills were heavily hunted for their brilliant and distinct red colored feathers. In recent years however, the Spoonbill has come back strong in certain isolated areas. Now, the main threat to the continuation of the species is the destruction of natural habitat. More and more shallow water habitats are being destroyed everyday. The survival of the Spoonbill depends on the survival of its habitat.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses

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This species is not federally listed as threatened or endangered, but in Florida, is considered a Species of Special Concern (SSC). During the late 1800s, roseate spoonbill populations from Florida through Texas were nearly extirpated due to trappers and hunters who killed the birds and collected their feathers for the fashion industry. By the 1940s, Allen (1942) reported that the breeding population of spoonbills in Florida may have numbered as few as 30 nesting pairs. Protection efforts after that time aided the birds in reestablishing nesting colonies, and by the late 1970s, the Florida population was estimated to be approximately 1,400 breeding pairs (Robertson et al. 1983). Today, habitat loss and degradation of forging and nesting habitats are the primary conservation concerns for roseate spoonbills in the United States (Powell and Bjork 1989, Martin 1991, Bjork and Powell 1996, Gawlik et al. 1998). In Florida, many nesting sites are already protected as part of the State and National park systems (Everglades National Park, Tampa Bay Sanctuaries, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, etc.) but foraging habitat remains vulnerable to human development and disturbance (Bjork and Powell 1996). Spoonbills have a preference for their feeding locations to be close to colony sites; thus, loss of foraging habitat could cause shifts in breeding locations. Evidence from the Florida Keys shows that loss of spoonbill feeding areas due to development from 1955 - 1985, likely caused breeding sites to be moved from the southeastern region of Florida Bay to more northern areas as mangrove habitats were eliminated (Powell et al. 1989; Bjork and Powell 1994). In Texas, Gawlik et al. (1998) reported that serious population decreases of nesting spoonbills in the Galveston Bay Estuary were concurrent with the loss of feeding grounds on coastal marshes. Since 1979, the roseate spoonbill has been listed by the State of Florida as a Species of Special Concern. Prior to 1972, it was listed in Florida as Endangered, but was downlisted to Special Concern status when the category was first adopted (Bjork and Powell 1996). With the designation of Special Concern status in Florida, it is recognized that roseate spoonbills are vulnerable to habitat alteration or destruction, and are negatively impacted by human disturbance. Spoonbills are also classified as Rare by the Florida Committee on Rare and Endangered Birds and Animals (Bjork and Powell 1996). Throughout Florida (Bjork and Powell 1994, 1996, Smith and Breininger 1995), multi-species protection efforts are being undertaken to conserve existing populations of wading birds, and to promote their future growth. Habitat protection measures are effected through both land acquisition programs and ecosystem restoration efforts. In south Florida, for example, approximately 50% of the remaining mainland mangrove area east of U.S. Highway has been purchased by the South Florida Water Management District and Miami-Dade County (Dumas 2000), with ongoing acquisitions attempting to secure the remaining mainland mangrove areas. Ecosystem restoration efforts are also underway as the importance of natural water flows and water level fluctuations are increasingly recognized. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, delivered to Congress in July 1999, is currently being implemented. This plan includes restoring the hydrology of all major estuaries from Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf Coast to St. Lucie Estuary on the Atlantic Coast, based on a hydrology model that mimics pre-drainage conditions for salinity, freshwater flow volumes and timing, duration of flooding, and depth of water (Dumas 2000). At Kennedy Space Center, mosquito impoundments are being managed to maintain favorable water levels and salinities for wading bird foraging and nesting (Smith and Breininger 1995).Spoonbill and other wading bird populations will continue to be monitored to determine whether further protections are necessary. Spoonbills in Florida Bay may be a key indicator species of ecosystem health, and long-term changes in their population sizes, annual reproductive success, and colony distribution patterns are expected to show how effective regional restoration efforts have been. Benefit in the IRL: Aesthetic, ecological.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The Roseate Spoonbill is a species found mainly in Florida. Many avid bird watchers come to Florida to see this beautiful creature. This attraction, therefore, helps the economy. The feathers of the bird were heavily sought after in the middle of the century, but this practice has died out, due to the fact that the species almost became extinct.

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A. ajaia was formerly hunted both for its colorful plumage, and to a lesser degree, for food. Today, however, it has no direct economic importance. BibliographyAllen, R.P. 1942. The Roseate Spoonbill. Research Report No. 2, NationalAudubon Society, New York, NY. Amos, W. and S. Amos. 1997. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Alfred A. Knopf,Inc. New York, NY. 672 pgs.Bjork, R. D., G. V. N. Powell. 1994. Relationships between hydrologic conditions and quality and quantity of foraging habitat for Roseate Spoonbillsand other wading birds in the C-111 Basin. South Florida Res. Center,Everglades Natl. Park, Natl. Park Serv., Final Rep., Homestead, FL. Bjork, R., G. V. N. Powell. 1996. Roseate Spoonbill. Pp. 295-308 in Rare andendangered biota of Florida. Vol. 5 (J. A. Rodgers, H. W. Kale, and H. T.Smith, eds.). Univ. Press of Florida, Gainesville. Blacklock, G.W., R.D. Slack, D.R. Blankenship, et al. 1979. Texas Colonial Waterbird Census. Proc. 1st Welder Wildl. Found. Symp.:252-259.Dumas, J. V. 2000. Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja). In The Birds of NorthAmerica, No. 490 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America,Inc., Philadelphia, PA.Dunstan, F.M. 1976. Roseate Spoonbill Nesting in Tampa Bay, Florida. FloridaField Naturalist 4(2):25-27.Farrand Jr., J. 1988. An Audubon Handbook: Eastern Birds. McGraw-HillBook Co. New York, NY. 496 pgs.Kahl, M.P., Jr. 1964. Food Ecology of the Wood Stork (Mycteria Americana)in Florida. Ecol. Monogr. 34(2):97-117.Le Grande, H.E., Jr. 1980. Southern Atlantic Coast Region. American Birds34:149-152.Gawlik, D. E., R. D. Slack, J. A. Thomas, D. N. Harpole. 1998. Long-termtrends in population and community measures of colonial nesting waterbirds in the Galveston Bay Estuary. Colon. Waterbirds 21: 143-151. Leber, K.K. 1980. Habitat Utilization in a Tropical Heronry. Brenesia 17:97-136.Martin, R.. 1991. Regional overview of wading birds in Louisiana, Mississippiand Alabama. Pp. 22-33 in Proceedings of the Coastal Nongame Workshop, U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv., Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commision (D. P. Jennings, comp.). U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv., Fort Collins, CO. Powell, G. V. N., R. D. Bjork. 1989. Relationships between hydrologicconditions and quality and quantity of foraging habitat for Roseate Spoonbillsand other wading birds in the C-111 Basin. South Florida Res. Center,Everglades Natl. Park, Natl. Park Serv., Annual Rep., Homestead, FL.Powell, G. V. N., R. D. Bjork. 1990. Relationships between hydrologicconditions and quality and quantity of foraging habitat for Roseate Spoonbillsand other wading birds in the C-111 Basin. South Florida Res. Center,Everglades Natl. Park, Natl. Park Serv., Second Annual Rep., Homestead,FL.Powell, G. V. N., R. D. Bjork. 1991. Relationships between hydrologicconditions and quality and quantity of foraging habitat for Roseate Spoonbillsand other wading birds in the C-111 Basin. South Florida Res. Center,Everglades Natl. Park, Natl. Park Serv., Third Annual Rep., Homestead,FL.Powell, G. V., R. D. Bjork, J. C. Ogden, R. T. Paul, A. H. Powell, W. B.Robertson. 1989. Population trends in some Florida Bay wading birds. Wilson Bull. 101: 436-457. Robertson, W.B., Jr., L.L. Breen, et al. 1983. Movement of Marked Roseate Spoonbills in Florida With a Review of Present Distribution. Journal of FieldOrnithology 54(3):225-352.Rogers, J.A., Jr. 1980. Reproductive Success of Three Heron Species on theWest Coast of Florida. Florida Field Naturalist 8:37-40. Robertson, W. B., L. L. Breen, B. W. Patty. 1983. Movement of markedRoseate spoonbills in Florida with a review of present distribution. J. FieldOrnithol. 54: 225-236.Smith, R. B., D. R. Breininger. 1995. Wading bird populations of the Kennedy Space Center. Bull. Marine Sci. 57: 230-236. Smith, R. B., D. R. Breininger. 1988. Northern breeding range extensionfor the Roseate Spoonbill in Florida. Fla. Field. Nat. 16: 65-67. White, D.H., C.A. Mitchell, et al. 1982. Nesting Ecology of Roseate Spoonbillsat Nueces Bay, Texas. The Auk 99:275-284.
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Wikipedia

Roseate Spoonbill

The roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) (sometimes placed in its own genus Ajaja) is a gregarious wading bird of the ibis and spoonbill family, Threskiornithidae. It is a resident breeder in South America mostly east of the Andes, and in coastal regions of the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, the Gulf Coast of the United States [2][3] and on central Florida's Atlantic coast[4] Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge adjoined with NASA Kennedy Space Center.

Taxonomy[edit]

A 2010 study of mitochondrial DNA of the spoonbills by Chesser and colleagues found that the roseate and yellow-billed spoonbills were each other's closest relatives, and the two were descended from an early offshoot from the ancestors of the other four spoonbill species. They felt the genetic evidence meant it was equally valid to consider all six to be classified within the genus Platalea or alternatively the two placed in the monotypic genera Platibis and Ajaja, respectively. However, as the six species were so similar morphologically, keeping them within the one genus made more sense.[5]

Description[edit]

Roseate spoonbill, High Island, Texas, United States

The roseate spoonbill is 71–86 cm (28–34 in) long, with a 120–133 cm (47–52 in) wingspan and a body mass of 1.2–1.8 kg (2.6–4.0 lb).[6] The tarsus measures 9.7–12.4 cm (3.8–4.9 in), the culmen measures 14.5–18 cm (5.7–7.1 in) and the wing measures 32.3–37.5 cm (12.7–14.8 in) and thus the legs, bill, neck and spatulate bill all appear elongated.[7] Adults have a bare greenish head ("golden buff" when breeding[8]) and a white neck, back and breast (with a tuft of pink feathers in the center when breeding), and are otherwise a deep pink. The bill is grey. There is no significant sexual dimorphism.

Like the American flamingo, their pink color is diet-derived, consisting of the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin. Another carotenoid, astaxanthin, can also be found deposited in flight and body feathers.[9] The colors can range from pale pink to bright magenta, depending on age and location. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched. They alternate groups of stiff, shallow wingbeats with glides.[10]

Behavior[edit]

Video of feeding behavior, Merritt Island, Florida, United States

This species feeds in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging its bill from side to side as it steadily walks through the water, often in groups. The spoon-shaped bill allows it to sift easily through mud. It feeds on crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and very small fish ignored by larger waders. In the United States, a popular place to observe roseate spoonbills is "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Roseate spoonbills must compete for food with snowy egrets, great egrets, tricolored herons and American white pelicans.

Reproduction[edit]

Adult with two juveniles on a nest

The roseate spoonbill nests in shrubs or trees, often mangroves, laying two to five eggs, which are whitish with brown markings.[10] Immature birds have white, feathered heads, and the pink of the plumage is paler. The bill is yellowish or pinkish.

Threats[edit]

Information about predation on adults is lacking. Nestlings are sometimes killed by turkey vultures, bald eagles, raccoons and fire ants.[3] In 2006, a 16-year-old banded bird was discovered, making it the oldest wild individual.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Platalea ajaja". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Roseate Spoonbill". Waterbird Conservation. National Audubon Society. Archived from the original on 2008-10-24. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  3. ^ a b Dumas, Jeannette V. 2000. Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved 2009-11-12. Subscription required
  4. ^ Graham, Jr., Frank. "A Wing and a Prayer". Audubon Magazine. Retrieved July–August 2001. 
  5. ^ Chesser, R.Terry; Yeung, Carol K.L.; Yao, Cheng-Te; Tians, Xiu-Hua; Li Shou-Hsien (2010). "Molecular phylogeny of the spoonbills (Aves: Threskiornithidae) based on mitochondrial DNA". Zootaxa (2603): 53–60. ISSN 1175-5326. 
  6. ^ [1] (2011).
  7. ^ Hancock, Kushlan & Kahl (1992). Storks, Ibises, and Spoonbills of the World. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-322730-0. 
  8. ^ Howell, SNG; Webb, S (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. pp. 147–8. ISBN 0-19-854012-4. 
  9. ^ Brush, A. H. 1990. Metabolism of cartenoid pigments in birds. The FASEB Journal. 4:2969-2977.
    Fox, D. L. 1962. Carotenoids of the Roseate Spoonbill. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 6:305-310.
    (Mentioned in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page).
  10. ^ a b Howell, SNG; Webb, S (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. pp. 147–8. ISBN 0-19-854012-4 
  11. ^ "Researchers: Oldest Wild Spoonbill Found - Care2 News Network". Care2.com. 2006-05-29. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Formerly placed in the genus Ajaia. AOU (2002) recommended merging Ajaia into Platalea, although the evidence is disputable.

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