All About the Roseate Spoonbill

roseate spoonbillDuring the winter season, Florida can look like a scene out of Jurassic Park. The sheer scale and variety of birds flocking down here is a sight to be seen. Hundreds of birds of varying species stand side by side bodies of water and make the area their home for the winter/nesting season. One bird that can be spotted in southern Florida is the roseate spoonbill, and it happens to be a threatened species.

The roseate spoonbill is the only spoonbill native to the Western Hemisphere. They are white and brightly pink colored (like a flamingo) do to the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin in their diets. Depending on their age, roseate spoonbills can be a pale pink or a deep, bright magenta in color. They have a gray spoon-shaped bill, white neck, back, and breast. They are 28-34 inches in size with a wingspan up to 52 inches.

To catch its prey, the spoonbill swinging its spoon-shaped bill back and forth in shallow waters.  They eat crayfish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, newts, and small fish. They often travel and feed in groups. Its bill allows it to sift through mud to find food sources, as well.

They are considered to be a social bird who lives in a large colony with other birds like herons, storks, and egrets. They fly in flocks in a long, diagonal line.

When breeding, they will next in mangrove or trees, but they usually stay by the coast. Female spoonbills build the nest while the male provides the materials for the females to build. They can lay up to 3 eggs at a time.

In the mid-1800s, the roseate spoonbill was hunted for its feathers; they were used to make women’s hats and fans, but this practice is now illegal; the population has begun to grow since this regulation was put in place. In the early 20th century, there was only a few dozen pairs left. They were made a protected species in the 1940s. This bird is also threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, illegal shootings, and lower food sources. To protect this bird, it was named under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act to be protected and it is recognized as a state-designed threatened species.

In 2006, a tagged roseate spoonbill was seen; it was 16 years old, which made it the oldest wildest known spoonbill of its kind.

Want to catch a glimpse of the roseate spoonbill in the Everglades, along with many other birds? To get a great views of the skies and bodies of water (where birds will be) in the Everglades, you should opt for an airboat tour. An airboat ride can bring you to places in the Everglades not accessible by foot. To book a trip, contact Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click here

Paurotis Pond

paurotis pondThe Everglades needs water to survive; it’s a water-based ecosystem made up of sawgrass marshes, waterways, prairies, forested uplands, and ponds, including Paurotis Pond. One reason the area needs water so badly is because it’s home to an abundance of plants, animals, and marine life. Not only does water give the plants and animals sustenance, it gives them a home.

One of these “homes” is Paurotis Pond. The pond is a well-known nesting site of a variety of birds. The pond is situated 24 miles from the main Everglades park entrance in Homestead, Fl. The pond gets its name from the Paurotis Palms, a plant with green fan-shapes leaves that is native to the Everglades.

The National Park Service’s mission is to protect and preserve the landscape of the Everglades, so each year, the park

Every year, the Park closes the Pond area to protect nesting birds, including the Wood Storks, from any human disturbances. For instance, in January 2015, the Park closed Paurotis Pond for the Roseate Spoonbills’ nesting season. Pond closures vary in dates and times every year. The closures are dependent on birds’ behaviors.  The Wood Stork was once an endangered species, but thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the species’ status was downgraded to “threatened.” This success is attributed to nearly 30 years of conversation and preservation efforts. In the last few years, Paurotis Pond has been a nesting site for about 400 pairs of Wood Storks.

Bird species that nest at Paurotis Pond, include: Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Anhinga, and Little Blue Herons.

Just like people who flock to Florida for the winter, these birds fly down to Paurotis Pond during the dry season to prepare their nest-building sites. The birds form nesting colonies comprised of hundreds to thousands of birds. In this season, birds gather around permanent bodies of water, like Paurotis Pond, which makes bird-watching easy. The best birding season in the Everglades is from December to March. January and February are the best months to check out the birds at Paurotis Pond, if it has not been closed off for nesting. However, bird watching from the Pond’s parking area usually remains open. Not only is the pond a popular bird-watching site, but visitors can access the area to fish and canoe, as well.

Explore the Everglades

The Everglades is full of beautiful birds and waters for your viewing pleasure. Since it’s the winter season, now is the best time to catch birds nesting in the area’s waters. To make the most of your Everglades visit, take an airboat ride with Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours. To schedule your ride, call Captain Mitch’s at 239-695-3377.

Roseate Spoonbill

SpoonbillThe roseate spoonbill has long been considered one of the most beautiful birds in the entire world, largely due to its eccentric coloring. Like flamingoes, roseate spoonbills are almost entirely pink, with different shades of varying depths covering most of their bodies.

Like the flamingo, roseate spoonbills gets their intense coloring from their diets, which consist mostly of crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, and small fish. Depending on the age and habitat of individual roseate spoonbills, their colors can range from paler pinks to bright magentas, with newborns starting out quite pale and becoming darker as they age. On any given roseate spoonbill, the brightest and most intense colors are generally found on their wings.

Roseate spoonbills are wading birds that are members of the ibis and spoonbill families. Because they prefer warmer climates, they are most prevelant in South America but can also be found throughout Central America and along the Gulf Coast of the United States, namely in Southwest Florida. Roseate spoonbills are small in size, with wingspans of up to five feet, and have elongated legs and necks with rounded, spatulate bills.

It is these spoon-shaped bills that give the roseate spoonbills their name, bills which they use to easily sift through mud while searching for food. They prefer to travel and feed in groups, and can often be seen in clusters of shallow, coastal waters, swinging their bills from side to side as they steadily make their way through the water.

Adult spoonbills have few known predators, but their young and nestlings can be particularly vulnerable to raccoons, fire ants, and larger birds such as bald eagles and turkey vultures. Like many Everglades bird species, habitat destruction poses the most serious threat, as these beautiful birds rely on mangroves and other low shrubs and trees for nesting and raising their young.

Due to their unique and bright coloring, roseate spoonbills are easily spotted when traveling by airboat through the Everglades. In general, airboat tours offer excellent bird-watching opportunities, and spotting one of these magnificent birds in the wild for yourself is sure to be an experience that you never forget.