Very common in parts of the southeast until the 1860s, spoonbills were virtually eliminated from the United States as a side-effect of the destruction of wader colonies by plume hunters. Began to re-colonize Texas and Florida early in 20th century. Still uncommon and local, vulnerable to degradation of feeding and nesting habitats.
Ibises and Spoonbills
Coastal marshes, lagoons, mudflats, mangrove keys. Forages in shallow water with muddy bottom, in both salt and fresh water, including tidal ponds, coastal lagoons, extensive inland marshes. Nests in colonies, in Florida mainly in red mangroves, farther west in willows or on coastal islands in low scrub, including mesquite and salt cedar.
Gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close is the Roseate Spoonbill. Locally common in coastal Florida, Texas, and southwest Louisiana, they are usually in small flocks, often associating with other waders. Spoonbills feed in shallow waters, walking forward slowly while they swing their heads from side to side, sifting the muck with their wide flat bills.
Forages by wading in shallow muddy water, sweeping bill from side to side with mandibles slightly open, detecting prey by feel. Sometimes picks up items that it has found by sight.
2-3, sometimes 1-5. White, spotted with brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 22-24 days. Young: Both parents feed young. Young clamber about near nest, may leave nest after 5-6 weeks, capable of strong flight at roughly 7-8 weeks.
Both parents feed young. Young clamber about near nest, may leave nest after 5-6 weeks, capable of strong flight at roughly 7-8 weeks.
Small fish, aquatic invertebrates. Diet is mostly small fish such as minnows and killifish, also shrimp, crayfish, crabs, aquatic insects (especially beetles), mollusks, slugs. Eats some plant material, including roots and stems of sedges.
Breeds mainly during winter in Florida, during spring in Texas. Nests in colonies. At beginning of breeding season, entire flock may suddenly fly up, for no apparent reason, and circle the area. In courtship, male and female first interact aggressively, later perch close together, present sticks to each other, cross and clasp bills. Nest site is in mangroves, tree, shrub, usually 5-15′ above ground or water, sometimes on ground. Nest (built mostly by female, with material brought by male) a bulky platform of sticks, with deep hollow in center lined with twigs, leaves.