Roseate Spoonbill- a gregarious wading bird.
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
A river tour is essentially a nonstop jaw-dropper of historic imagery. There are endless rolls of film of beautiful sights on a tour, but not too many that require you to turn your gaze upward. Although, there is one bird – which you are likely to see – that is nothing short of breath-taking to watch. The Roseate Spoonbill is a bizarre bird, but has very interesting traits. The Spoonbill is a large wader (because they wade in the water all day) with pink plumage.
Considering its shape and pale grayish color, you can’t miss the bill. It is shaped exactly like a Spatula. The majority of their body is white except for their legs and eyes, which are Red. In all Honesty, I was a little disappointed the first time I saw one of these on the island. I was standing about 50 feet away and I would have sworn it was a remarkably beautiful creature. BuRoseate Spoonbillt up close, not so much. I believe such unfortunate circumstances are called a “50 Footer.” If I’m going to go bird watching, it will be to watch a bald eagle learning how to fly. But their pink primaries were a very vivid pink color. Some fashion enthusiasts considered them to be so attractive that they had to turn them into an accessory to carry around. Ladies would have their fans made from the primaries right up until the turn of the 20th century. The Roseate are a common local wader in Coastal Florida with nearly 1000 pairs nesting here, parts of Texas, the southern edge of Louisiana. Florida’s population is thriving but Texas and Louisiana are in a fair amount of trouble. They are always at risk in the locations where they nest. They are extremely vulnerable to any predator that can find its way to the offshore islands. Wader means exactly what it sounds like. They stand in the water all day. While they do participate in flocking, the Roseate Spoonbill does not care for very large groups. You’ll see them in flocks of as little as 4 or 5. As if in respect to some water-rooted brotherhood between the other birds, they only socialize with other waders which include Storks and Herons. I’ve never witnessed a bird eat in such a way. Friends, if you have ever cleaned the stairs with one of those miniature vacuum Dust Buster contraptions from the 90’s, that’s a fairly accurate visual of what a Roseate look like when it eats. The Spatula bill swinging side to side, brushing along the grassy marsh.
Roseate Spoonbills are known to wait until their third year before they will breed. Their courtship involves ritualized exchanges of nesting, dancing and bill clapping. The female will build a very strong cup next of twigs, which the male brings to her. Chivalry lives! She will lay three cream colored eggs marked with darker brown spots. The incubation period takes anywhere from twenty-two to twenty-four days to complete its cycle. Once newly hatched, the newborn appears to be mostly pink and orange. As other birds do, the parents regurgitate material which they’ve previously ingested for storage purposes. After a month of being nursed into existence, the young bird begins to start building its strength by bouncing around on the limbs and foliage. I guess it comes down to how your entire experience seeing something new goes before you can judge it at all.
No matter what animal you hope to see on your river tour, you will always see one that you needed to see. You may find those to be the even better birdwatching conversation.
Go “birding” with the Amelia River Cruise.
Join the Family Friendly Sunset Cruise and see many other beautiful creatures in our area. (continue…)