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Roseate Spoonbills color skies pink

By Staff | Dec 24, 2009

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) Other names: pink curlew, pink / Status: FL=species of special concern, IUCN=LC / Life span: to 15 years / Length: 30-40 in. (76-101 cm) / Wingspan: 50-53 in. (127-135 cm) / Weight: 2.54 lb (1.13-1.81 kg) / Does not nest on islands / Found: Interior wetlands, mangrove zone.

Without question, the roseate spoonbill is the poster child of Sanibel bird lovers. A difficult bird to add to anyones life list, the roseate is commonly found in the “Ding” Darling refuge year round and thus attracts thousands of avid birders annually to the islands. It is probably the most photographed bird on Sanibel. Because of its pink coloration, the roseate is sometimes confused with the flamingo.

Unmistakable for its spatulate bill, baldhead, and flamboyant pink coloration, the roseate was nearly extirpated from Florida during the 1800s. Not only was it taken by the plume hunters, it was also killed for its meat, and its rookeries were repeatedly raided for eggs. Now recovering, the numbers of these lovely birds are still only a fraction of what they were when Ponce de Leon first landed in Florida.

The roseate’s feeding style is unique, similar to wood storks. It swishes its spatulate-shaped bill back and forth through the soft, exposed muck in any tidal flat. When it comes across a shrimp or crustacean, it claps its bill together, eating the prey, then quickly resumes feeding. It also has a unique behavior called “skypointing” where it tends to extend its bill and neck upward toward other spoonbills flying overhead.

The roseate is monogamous and tends to nest with other wading birds. Its nests are sometimes raided by raccoons and other predators. It needs extensive tidal flats to survive, and it suffers from polluted waters, as well as long-term habitat loss.