Roseate Spoonbill: Pink amid the Shallows

By Dave Hanks

Pink can be fairly common in our human world in the form of clothing and home decor. But in the animal kingdom, it is indeed - RARE. Yet I see a pink form wading the shallow inlets of the Texas gulf coast. It is a bird, a large one over 30 inches tall. Not only is its color unusual, but its beak resembles a huge, gray spoon (yellowish in the first year). The bird’s head and neck are white, but the rest of the body, including the legs, is pink - with a touch of red along the wings. I am witnessing an unusual sighting for me – a Roseate Spoonbill.

This wader is swinging its bill side to side in search of crustaceans, aquatic beetles and bugs, and tiny fish; as it moves steadily through the water. I grab our camera and sneak as stealthily as possible, to get near enough to get a picture with out spooking it away.

Spoonbills are gregarious, often foraging in groups and nesting in colonies. Courtship between the sexes (which look alike), consists of dancing, bill clapping, and ritualized exchanging of sticks, grasses, etc. The nest is then constructed by the female with material brought to her by the male. She builds it in a tree, especially a mangrove if possible, and then lays 2 to 5 whitish eggs with brown markings. Most spoonbills do not breed until they are three years old.

The Roseate Spoonbill flies with head and neck stretched straight out, flapping their huge wings (over four feet) slow and long. Groups in flight will form a diagonal line, each drafting on the bird just ahead,

This South-American species range extends as far north as the coastal lowlands of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. They are very shy and to observe them, you must be very careful, or they will be quick to leave.

(Plataiea ajaja)