Posted November 15, 2013
Many of you knew this bird, the Roseate Spoonbill. It’s also known as the bird with the coolest scientific name: Ajaia ajaja! However some authors now place it in the genus Platalea with the other spoonbills. There are 6 species of spoonbills but only the Roseate Spoonbill is found in North America. It is a Neotropical bird whose range extends as far north as the Gulf Coast of the U.S. It is also the only spoonbill with colorful plumage. The others are mainly white. Like the American Flamingo, the Roseate Spoonbill gets it pink and reddish pigments from its diet. The iris is also red, which is represented well in this specimen by the taxidermists use of red-colored glass eyes.
So why the unusual spoon-shaped bill? The Spoonbill feeds by walking steadily through shallow waters and swinging its bill back and forth in the water, with its mouth partially open. When it encounters small prey items, such as small fish and invertebrates, it snaps its bill shut. Not only is it an odd looking bird, but it makes a low guttural sound as it swings its head back and forth during feeding!
The spoonbill population began to decline in the early 19th Century when it was extensively sought after for its feathers. Egret plumes were the mostly highly prized however, and it is believed that disturbance of egret rookeries also affected the spoonbills who shared the nesting area. Spoonbills are still vulnerable, and in Florida it is listed as a Species of Special Concern. The specimen in the photos is an old taxidermy mount that we borrowed from OSU’s Museum of Biological Diversity for an upcoming exhibit.