Roseate Spoonbill

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday, we’re discussing the hot-pink ladle-faced wading bird that draws birders from far and wide to the ACE basin. This week we’re taking a gander at the Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).

It’s unquestionable. Roseate Spoonbills are the most striking of all our wading birds. Their hot pink wings, bubblegum legs, bony spoon-shaped bills, large stature, and glowing ruby eyes will give even the most seasoned birder whiplash when one turns up unexpectedly. No other bird, save a very lost Flamingo, commands the same presence in the marsh. Despite their resemblance to Wood Storks, of the species in SC, Roseate Spoonbills are most closely related to Ibis.

Roseate Spoonbills are quite common in coastal TX and LA as well as southern Florida but are a much more special sight on Edisto. They migrate our way come summer, trickling in along the intracoastal waterway. We’re only just on the edge of their breeding range in SC. So most of the birds you will see are immatures coming more north than the breeding grounds to feed. Adult Roseate Spoonbills have a bald head but immature birds still have a full head of feathers. Roseate Spoonbills feed in the saltmarshes and impoundments of our coast, slicing their flattened bills from side to side as they march along in the shallow water. When they bump against something tasty they snap their bill shut, trapping their prey in a spoon-y embrace. Roseate Spoonbills eat a diet of small fish and crustaceans, including mummichogs, blue crabs, and shrimp.

If you want to appreciate the beauty of our utensil-snouted fusia-feathered friend in person, I can recommend two hotspots on Edisto. I often see Roseate Spoonbills below the bridge along the Dawhoo River in early summer and more reliably on the back of Jason’s Lake in Botany Bay WMA in late summer. So grab your binoculars and camera and get out there!

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