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A pair of Roseate Spoonbills building a nest in their enclosure at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park in Homosassa Springs, Florida. It looks to me like a mighty small nesting space for such large birds. Info below
Canon EOS Rebel XSi/450D, Canon 55-250 lens
1/200, f/5.6, ISO 200, focal length 154.0mm
From “Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Inc.”
Some Interesting Facts about Roseate Spoonbills
The adult roseate spoonbill is most noted for its stunning pink color and its uniquely-shaped bill. Its wings, abdomen and feathers on the side of its tail are bright pink, its tail is orange, and its legs are ruby-colored. The feather colors brighten in breeding season. This medium-sized bird’s body is rather stocky; its long legs allow it to wade into water. Fun Fact The roseate spoonbill gets much of its pink color from the food it eats. The crustaceans that it eats feed on algae which contain pigments that impart a pink/red color.
Spoonbills are very social birds. They spend most of their time in the company of other spoonbills, as well as other water birds. Not only do they feed in groups, but they nest in colonies with ibises, storks, cormorants, herons and egrets. Roseate spoonbills fly in flocks with other spoonbills, usually in long, strung-out diagonal lines.
To eat the Roseate Spoonbill swings their spatulate bills from side to side as they wade in shallow water, feeling for small fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, slugs, and aquatic insects. They feeds more by touch than by sight – - a handy adaptation for an animal that often feeds in water that’s muddy or clogged with dense vegetation. Their horny bill is equipped with sensitive touch receptors that detect vibrations given off by prey. When something touches the inside of the spoon, the bill closes on it quickly. This keen sense of touch and fast reflexes allow the bird to feed in cloudy water, and at night. The Roseate Spoonbill will also chase prey that it detects by sight, but its sense of touch is much more reliable. Roseate spoonbills feed at day or night. Fun Fact A spoonbill’s nostrils are located at top of the bill, making it possible for the bird to breathe while the bill is under water.
Roseate spoonbills don’t mate for life, but they do keep the same mate for an entire breeding season. Before they breed, the male and female tempt each other in ritual courtship displays. Both sexes cooperate to building the large, well-constructed nest from sticks, and line them with leaves and grass. They build their nest in trees. Females typically lay one to four eggs. Both mom and dad take turns sitting on the clutch. After the chicks hatch, both parents feed them. After the chicks leave the nest they usually remain nearby and are fed by their parents until which time they’ve perfected the art of flying. Then the parents’ job is done.
In the mid- to late-1800s, they were driven to the brink of extinction in North America and Cuba. Spoonbills were intensely hunted for their beautiful feathers, used for ladies’ hats, fans and screens. Their numbers also suffered with the draining and pollution of their wetland habitat. By the early 20th century, there were only a few dozen nesting pairs of roseate spoonbills on this continent. Various groups, including the National Audubon Society, set aside preserves for the birds. Spoonbills received legal protection in the 1940s and their numbers slowly started rebounding in parts of the southern U.S. Fun Fact it’s ironic that roseate spoonbills were hunted for their plumage: their feather color fades rapidly, so the fans and hats made from their plumes had only a limited lifespan. The greatest threat to the Roseate spoonbill is mankind. Lots of wetland is being drained for mosquito control and real estate development, which leads to habitat loss. Urban litter now threatens her habitat as well.