Have you ever wondered what would happen if a flamingo and a duck had babies? Probably not, but that’s what came to my mind when I saw a picture of today’s animal, the roseate spoonbill. There are same weird-looking birds out there, but the roseate spoonbill is definitely up there as one of the weirdest.
Roseate spoonbills belong to the family Threskiornithidae, which includes other spoonbills and ibises. They are found in North and South America, from Florida and Georgia through to Argentina. Spoonbills are wading birds, and so live near water, usually mangrove swamps and mudflats.
As I said before, roseate spoonbills are pretty much flamingo/duck hybrids. They have the long legs and pink bodies of flamingoes, but at the top of the neck, a different bird’s head seems to have been welded on. Roseate spoonbills have a yellow head tinged with green, and a long, thin bill that widens and flattens at its end, which is why they’re called spoonbills. Roseate spoonbills grow to be 71-86 cm long with a 120-133 cm wingspan.
That spoon-shaped bill isn’t just for decoration — spoonbills use their bills to feed. They wade through the water, swishing their bills from side to side, catching whatever they can in the process. The funny shape of their bills allows roseate spoonbills to sift through mud very easily, leaving them with tasty morsels. Spoonbills aren’t particularly picky, feeding on crustaceans, frogs, newts, small fish, and insects.
Male roseate spoonbills woo females by bringing them nesting materials; this is important as spoonbills build large nests. These are made out of twigs and sticks, and usually are built in mangrove trees or shrubs. Spoonbills lay two to five eggs, which hatch in around 24 days. Both parents take care of the young, which are able to fly after eight weeks, and are sexually mature at sixteen weeks of age.
As is the case with many birds that have pretty feathers, roseate spoonbills were nearly hunted to extinction for their plumage. Luckily, they have since recovered, and are now doing quite well in isolated areas, and are a species of least concern. Which is great news, because it would be a terrible shame for such a unique species to go extinct.
Cover image by Mathias Appel, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons