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)
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)
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 )
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.
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
The roseate spoonbill has an incredibly large distribution across the Americas, with its residential, or non-breeding, range spanning Argentina and Chile northward to the Texas Gulf Coast and Florida (Huey and Dronen, 1981; IUCN, 2001). There has never been a sighting outside of the Americas (Dumas, 2000). Many spoonbills are year-round residents of their respective areas, but some do tend to disperse before and after breeding season (Dumas, 2000; IUCN, 2001).
After breeding season, spoonbills in the U.S. disperse across Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, making occasional stops in Alabama and Mississippi for the summer and fall (Dumas, 2000). Some spoonbills have even been reported as far north as Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Utah, Illinois, and Wisconsin (Allen, 1942; Lewis, 1983; FNAI, 2001). Although spoonbills are often residents in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, there are fewer individuals present in the non-breeding season (Lewis, 1983). In the winter, U.S. populations are restricted to the southernmost regions of the Gulf Coast, primarily in south Florida, southwest Louisiana, and coastal Texas (Dumas, 2000). Spoonbills are also relatively common in the islands of the Caribbean, except for the Lesser Antilles (FNAI, 2001). There is little information on post-breeding dispersal outside of the U.S. and Central America, especially in South America (Dumas, 2000). Some think, however, that many roseate spoonbills migrate to Central and South America to avoid the cold climate (TPWD, n.d.; Howell and Webb, 1995). Although their entire range is poorly documented in South America, spoonbills are known to inhabit some portion of each South American country at some time of year (Dumas, 2000; IUCN, 2001). Unlike the spoonbills of the U.S., the spoonbills in South America tend to prefer living and nesting inland around fresh water (Dumas, 2000). Because little is known about the dispersal dynamics of different populations, some believe the South American populations are distinct from the resident populations in the USA and Central America (Dumas, 2000).
As for breeding range, in the U.S., the roseate spoonbill breeds along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, and southern Florida. Outside of the U.S., spoonbills only seem to breed along the coasts of Mexico and Central American countries, although this is not well documented (Howell and Webb, 1995). Little information on breeding range is available in Central and South America (Dumas, 2000).
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, keeps a complete record of which countries spoonbills are native and/or vagrant to, as listed below (IUCN, 2001):
Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Aruba; Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Cayman Islands; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Martinique; Mexico; Montserrat; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Puerto Rico; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; United States; Uruguay; Venezuela
Falkland Islands (Malvinas); Grenada; Guadeloupe; Jamaica; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; British Virgin Islands; US Virgin Islands
- Allen, R. P. 1942. The Roseate Spoonbill. National Audubon Society.
BirdLife International. 2012. Platalea ajaja (Roseate Spoonbill). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. -IUCN.
Dumas, J. V. 2000. Roseate spoonbill. (A. Poole, ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI). 2001. Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida.
- Howell, S. N. G. and S. Webb. 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press.
- Huey, R., and N. Dronen. 1981. Nematode and Cestode Parasites from the Roseate Spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja, including Paradilepis diminuta sp. n. (Cestoda: Dilepididae). The Journal of Parasitology 67:721–723. doi:10.2307/3280450
- Lewis, J.C. 1983. Habitat suitability index models: roseate spoonbill. U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPWD). N.d. Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Wildlife Fact Sheets.
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.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average mass: 1036.97 g.
Length: 81 cm
Weight: 1496 grams
No other large wading bird in the New World has a spatulate bill.
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.
Habitat and Ecology
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
Other Habitat Features: estuarine
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).
Roseate spoonbills are aquatic wading birds with two distinct habitats: 1) feeding habitat, and 2) nesting and roosting habitat. Their preferred feeding habitat is shallow water with a muddy substrate bottom (National Audubon Society, 2014). Since spoonbills use their elongate bill to sift through the mud for food and their ability to lean in is dictated by their height, the water must be shallow for them to successfully forage. The spoonbills’ tarsus, or lower leg, is typically 4.2 to 4.8 inches long, meaning that their preferred water depth is equal to or less than 4.7 inches, on average. When absolutely necessary, spoonbills will occasionally feed in deeper water, where their breast feathers and heads are fully immersed (Allen, 1942; Harrison, 1975; Lewis, 1983). Spoonbills do not seem to be directly affected by salinity and will forage in a variety of hypersaline, marine, brackish, and freshwater habitats (Terres, 1980; Dumas, 2000; FNAI, 2001). Some specific locations include coastal bays, estuaries, lagoons, sea grass meadows, marsh, wet prairies, swamps, canals, tidal mudflats, tidal pools, sloughs, lakes, ponds, river drainages, mosquito control impoundments, catfish and crayfish ponds at farms, cattle ponds, and roadside ditches and puddles. (Allen, 1942; Terres, 1980; Dumas, 2000; Britto and Bugoni, 2014; National Audubon Society, 2014). One study in Florida found that spoonbills seem to prefer freshwater in some areas, which may be related to a limited ability to deal with hyperosmotic prey (Britto and Bugoni, 2014).
In attempt to stay far from potential disturbances and predators, spoonbills primarily nest and roost on islands, islets, or keys, in dense vegetation above ground or standing water (Lewis, 1983; Dumas, 2000). Although less preferable, spoonbills will also nest in shrub and forest wetlands on the mainland and occasionally in upland habitats farther inland (Lewis, 1983; Dumas, 2000). One study from Texas even noted spoonbills nesting directly on the ground (Dumas, 2000; National Audubon Society, 2014). Spoonbills do not require unique nesting habitat and are, in fact, known to nest in mixed-species colonies, so long as they are near suitable foraging habitat (FNAI. 2001; National Audubon Society, 2014). No specific vegetation assemblage is essential, as spoonbills will construct their nests atop any low vegetation, trees, or shrubs with plant material that is abundant in the nesting location or nearby shoreline (White and Cromartie, 1982). Some studies have documented the different tree and shrub species spoonbills frequent for nesting, which include mangroves (Rhizophora spp. and Avicennia spp.), desert hackberry (Celtis pallida), marsh elder (Iva frutescens), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), sugar hackberry (Celtis laevigata), and willow oak (Quercus phellos) (Allen, 1942; White and Cromartie, 1982; Lewis, 1983). As far as nest placement, spoonbills construct their nests on horizontal branches, five to fifteen feet above ground or water, on average (Allen, 1942; Lewis, 1983; National Audubon Society, 2014). The highest spoonbill nest recorded measured 98 feet above the ground (Lewis, 1983).
Although spoonbills require different habitat for feeding and nesting, there are no specific habitat requirements for mating. Spoonbills breed throughout their range in a variety of marine, brackish, and freshwater habitats. This includes habitats along the coast in bays/ estuaries, marshes, and beaches, as well as inland in forested swamps, rivers, lakes, and wet prairies (Terres, 1980; Dumas, 2000).
Some of the management practices necessary for maintaining preferable habitat for roseate spoonbills include—maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas, riparian habitat, and nature preserves; restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting; controlling pollution in aquatic habitats; protecting existing wetlands and restoring degraded wetlands; prohibiting hunting; and providing protection from predators (Allen, 1942).
- -Allen, R. P. 1942. The Roseate Spoonbill. National Audubon Society.
- -Britto, V., and L. Bugoni. 2014. The contrasting feeding ecology of great egrets and roseate spoonbills in limnetic and estuarine colonies. Hydrobiologia 744:187–210. doi: 10.1007/s10750-014-2076-1.
-Dumas, J. V. 2000. Roseate spoonbill. (A. Poole, ed.) The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
-Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI). 2001. Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida.
- -Harrison, H. H. 1975. Field guide to birds' nests. Houghton-Mifflin, Boston.
- -Lewis, J.C. 1983. Habitat suitability index models: roseate spoonbill. U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service.
-National Audubon Society. 2014. Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Field Guide.
- -Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society: Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Knopf, New York.
- -White, C. Mitchell, and E. Cromartie. 1982. Nesting Ecology of Roseate Spoonbills at Nueces Bay, Texas. The American Ornithologists' Union 99:275–284.
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).
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.
Comments: Eats small fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects; forages in shallow water (Palmer 1962); sometimes stirs up bottom mud with feet to flush prey.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Comments: Coastal U.S. breeding population: Florida coast = 1500, Gulf Coast = about 4200 (Spendelow and Patton 1988).
Gregarious; usually feeds, roosts and nests in groups or flocks (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The behavior of roseate spoonbills is not well documented. There is very little quantitative information and what is documented is not well understood (Dumas 2000). Some breeding behaviors have appeared similar to that of other spoonbills, but further research into the behavior of roseate spoonbills and taxonomic relationships between spoonbills needs to be done (Dumas 2000).
Roseate spoonbills forage using tacto-location to locate food while wading through shallow, muddy waters (Dumas 2000; National Audubon Society 2014). In the early mornings and evenings, they slowly walk with their bill partially submerged, swinging it side to side, to sift out food from mud and water (Smithsonian n.d.; National Audubon Society 2014). The mandible contains nerve endings that snap the jaw shut as prey comes into contact with it (ARKive n.d.). Catching prey by feeling, roseate spoonbills are able to forage without light, and thus their eye structure is not highly developed (Rojas et al. 1999). Roseate spoonbills eat smaller prey. This includes fish such as minnows and killifish; crustaceans such as shrimp, crayfish, and crabs; aquatic insects; mollusks; slugs; and plant material such as roots and stems (National Audubon Society 2014). If needed, roseate spoonbills may beat prey against a hard surface to aid in digestion (ARKive n.d.).
Roseate spoonbills preen using their bill to nibble and run down the length of each feather, starting with their lower neck and down to their breast and abdomen (Dumas 2000). They clean their bill by dipping the tip in the water and then shaking their head to dry the bill (Dumas 2000). Sleeping occurs communally with the roseate spoonbills standing on one leg, with their head turned backward underneath feathers in their upper back (Dumas 2000).
Members within a flock have been seen having a sham battle (Dumas 2000). This interaction does not harm either fighter, and it is unknown why this behavior is done. In the sham battle, two birds fly at each other, and may rise about a meter off the ground as they beat their wings (Dumas 2000).
When faced with a threat, roseate spoonbills alert conspecifics by standing tall with their neck outstretched and head held high (Dumas 2000). An alarm call may come in addition with this stance to call further attention to the threat. When fighting a threat, they hold the axis of their body parallel to the ground with their head lowered, neck outstretched, and wings raised above their body (Dumas 2000). Striking with their bill may result if the threat is intensified. One threat that causes this kind of behavior includes territorial defense against an encroaching member of an outside flock (Dumas 2000).
Courtship for roseate spoonbills involves ritualized exchanges of nest material such as sticks and twigs from the male to the female to attract her and help her build a deeply cupped nest in vegetation above a water source (Smithsonian n.d.; TPWD n.d.). Males may head-bob and shake the stick as they deliver nesting materials to a female (Dumas 2000). Females have been seen to beg for nesting materials with a bowing display (Dumas 2000). During courtship, the male and female first interact aggressively toward one another, but then proceed to perch close together with their bills crossed as the female begins to act submissively (Dumas 2000; National Audubon Society 2014). During the mating season, roseate spoonbills stay monogamous to their partner and both help to feed and take care of young (TPWD n.d.; National Audubon Society 2014). However, there is no evidence that mates stay together for multiple breeding seasons, suggesting that roseate spoonbills are seasonally monogamous (ARKive n.d.). Only males have been seen to use defense mechanisms to defend a wide territory around his nesting site (ARKive n.d.; Prairie Research Institute n.d.). Defense mechanisms may include a threat posture and chasing other spoonbills (Dumas 2000). Males will give up their territory rather than fight if threatened by other species (Dumas 2000). Females will only defend the actual nest (Dumas 2000).
In addition to mating displays, some displays are performed by the whole flock including up-flights and sky-gazing (Prairie Research Institute n.d.; Dumas 2000). Up-flights occur after the flock performs an erect posture and then flies up and circles around their territory (National Audubon Society 2014). Sky-gazing occurs when another spoonbill is seen flying and individuals in the flock extend their neck and point their bill to the flying bird (Dumas 2000). Neither of these group displays are well understood, but have been observed numerous times.
- Dumas, J. V. 2000. Roseate spoonbill. The Birds of North America. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- Platalea ajaja. National Audubon Society. 2014.
- Rojas, L.M., R. McNeil, T. Cabana, and P. Lachapelle. 1999. Behavioral, morphological and physiological correlates of diurnal and nocturnal vision in selected wading bird species. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 53:227-242.
- Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). ARKive. 10 April 2016.
Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Illinois Natural History Survey. Prairie Research Institute.
Roseate spoonbill. Smithsonian National Zoological Park. 10 April 2016.
Comments: Forages primarily at night but also during daylight in Florida Bay (Powell 1987).
Status: wild: 28 (high) years.
Status: wild: 190 months.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous
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.
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.
Evolution and Systematics
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.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Platalea ajaja
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.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Platalea ajaja
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 7
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- Least Concern (LC)
- Least Concern (LC)
- Least Concern (LC)
- Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
- Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
- Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)