An occasional Roseate Spoonbill visit to the island is not a new thing; Ed Conradi recorded one in 1996. My first sighting was in 2005, and there have been one or two occasionally, and one year we spied 13. But every year it seems the numbers are bigger, and yesterday we counted 18 at my favorite birding corner. One observer driving by wondered if those pink birds were flamingoes, and with those big numbers and the characteristic pink color, I can see how they might guess that.
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea Ajaja) adults and juveniles can look markedly different. In the past, we have seen almost exclusively juveniles– pale pink in color with darker pink wings, and some of which are almost white. Second year juveniles get a little darker, and adults have a bald greenish head and a much darker pink color. Their distinctive bill looks a bit like an ophthalmologist’s diopter, and they have a characteristic feeding behavior of sweeping their bills back and forth. They are tactile, feeding by a combination of sight and feel. They are social, and feed and nest both in groups and solitarily.
These probably nest in the Florida Bay, and disperse northward after hatching in search of food. They share rookeries with other birds and may have ranged this far north before the egret trade for hats damaged many of of those rookeries in the last century. The ones we watched yesterday were preening and bathing, with an occasional break to grab a snack. You can spend a minute with them in this quick video, and also get occasional glimpses of Reddish Egrets feeding, Laughing Gulls, and some shorebirds. Feel free to comment with shorebird ID’s– it’s a little bird quiz.
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