The Big, Beautiful Bird With the Bizarre Bill

February 21, 2014 at 5:45 am (Birds- Florida, Great Florida Birding Trail, Nature, Wildlife, Zoos) (, , , , )

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

I do love that alliterative title… The roseate spoonbill possesses not only a unique snout and “bald” head, it also has a gorgeous outfit.  Even the Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses the word “bizarre” to describe this large wading bird, commonly seen along the southern U.S. coasts.


Many non-birders mistake the spoonbill for a flamingo solely because of its size and color.

Flamingo - Homosassa Springs, Florida

Flamingo – Homosassa Springs, Florida

As you can tell, there is absolutely no similarity other than color, and even that has its differences.  Nearly all flamingos seen “wild” are escapees from local parks, but there are some in very southern Florida who do fly there on their own from areas in the Caribbean where they are native.


These “spatulate” bills are swished back and forth in shallow water, partially opened so that any food item such as a fish, crustacean, or some vegetation that contacts it is immediately snapped up.  It looks a bit comical, but is highly efficient.

Roseate Spoonbill preening

Roseate Spoonbill preening

The above photo was highly cropped and the background was very distracting, so I just used the burn and clone tools to take it all out.  It’s similar to what you might see in certain lighting conditions where the bird is spotlighted against a dark background.  It also has a cool studio look.  You can see the original background on my Smugmug Gallery.


From the National Zoo website:  

“The lovely pink primaries of the Roseate Spoonbill were highly prized for use in the construction of ladies’ fans at the turn of the century. This made Spoonbills one of the favorite targets of the professional plume hunters that decimated so many species of wading birds. By the 1930’s the once thriving Florida population had dropped to an historic low of 30 to 40 breeding pairs, nesting only in a few small colonies on the keys of Florida Bay. Once they gained full legal protection from hunting the species began to rebound.

Now over a thousand pairs nest in Florida. The ground nesting colonies in Texas and Louisiana are extremely vulnerable to any predator that can make its way to their off shore islands. Entire colonies have been known to shift locations.”


The Endangered Species Act was 40 years old in 2013 and has been instrumental in saving many species, including the American alligator (can you believe it was nearly extinct in the 1960s?)   These photographs were all taken last week at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, which has a famous wading bird rookery as well as some lovely exhibits.


Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share


Online gallery:  Smugmug

To purchase these prints online:  Northeast Florida Birds Gallery

Original hand-painted BW photographs for sale:  Etsy

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  1. PAM said,

    They are definitely weird and wonderful! (You’re not the only fan of alliteration) I found your blog through Marilyn’s, can’t wait to back-read and see all your photos. I’m home sick this weekend and I have a new laptop so perhaps I’ll have time!

  2. Cindy McIntyre said,

    Hi Pam – nice to meet a friend of Marilyn’s. She kept me sane the last few months I was at Okefenokee. We’re cut from the same cloth!

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