What is a Roseate Spoonbill?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

With its elongate beak and vibrant pink plumage, the roseate spoonbill is a striking wading bird. The long-legged bird is a member of the ibis and spoonbill family. The animal is native to South America, the West Indies, Central America, and southern parts of North America.

Veterinarian with a puppy
Veterinarian with a puppy

The scientific name of the roseate spoonbill is Platalea ajaja. This type of bird may grow up to 32 inches (81 cm) in height. Their pink hued wings measure an average of 50 inches (127 cm) when fully extended. Though the birds often appear to be completely pink, some parts of their bodies are actually white or light green. This is usually true on their stomach, neck, and head regions.

The feet and bills of the roseate spoonbill are often black. The bird's eyes are usually pink or red, similar to its plumage. During mating season, its coloration may become more prominent, typically in the shoulder areas of the wings. Males are marginally larger than females. They also typically have longer bills.

Due to its coloring, many people confuse the roseate spoonbill with the flamingo. Its long, spooned bill is its main defining factor that separates it from other birds. Like flamingos, roseate spoonbills may acquire their coloring from their diets, which are heavy in shrimp and other carotenoid-rich prey. As the birds consume more of these rosy-colored organisms, they grow pinker.

In addition to shrimp, the roseate spoonbill feasts on a wide array of creatures. It is known to consume small amphibians. Small fish make up most of the bird's diet. Mollusks, vegetables, and insects are also treats for this bird. As the birds dine, they usually remain silent.

Roseate spoonbills fly with their necks and heads fully outstretched. The birds typically fly in diagonal formations when in a group. Many spoonbills of this species, however, prefer to forage alone. They do this by sweeping their bills back and forth in shallow water, dredging prey into their bills.

Several predators can threaten the young of the roseate spoonbill. Its eggs make a meal for raccoons, coyotes, and other predators. To ensure the survival of their eggs, roseate spoonbill couples build thick, protective nests in above-water vegetation. These nests are deep and can conceal the eggs from unwanted visitors.

Eggs laid by this species are incubated by both parents. Their incubation period is normally three weeks. Newly hatched chicks feather within two months, and are white with a slight pink hue. The bird's lifespan may reach up to a decade.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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