Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Platalea ajaja
Population size
Life Span
10-5 yrs
1-1.8 kg
71-86 cm
120-133 cm

Roseate spoonbills are large long-legged wading birds found in the Americas. Adults have a bare greenish head and a white neck, back and breast (with a tuft of pink feathers in the center when breeding), and are otherwise a deep pink. The colors can range from pale pink to bright magenta, depending on age, whether breeding or not, and location. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched, and they alternate groups of stiff, shallow wingbeats with glides.


Roseate spoonbills are resident breeders in South America mostly east of the Andes, and in coastal regions of the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, the Gulf Coast of the United States, and from central Florida's Atlantic coast at least as far north as South Carolina's Myrtle Beach. These birds inhabit coastal marshes, bays, lagoons, mangroves, and mudflats.

Roseate Spoonbill habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Roseate spoonbills are gregarious birds and prefer to feed and fly in groups. They are active during the day spending many hours foraging in shallow fresh or coastal waters. The birds feed by swinging their bill from side to side as they steadily walk through the water, often in groups. Their spoon-shaped bill allows them to sift easily through mud feeling and looking for prey. The bill has sensitive nerve endings and once the birds feel the prey touched their bill they snap it closed. Roseate spoonbills roost in colonies often with other waders. They sleep standing, often on one leg with their head hidden under a shoulder. These birds are usually silent but when alarmed they will produce a low-pitched 'huh-huh-huh'; when feeding they may utter a very low, guttural sound.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Roseate spoonbills are carnivores. Their diet includes crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts, and very small fish.

Mating Habits

22-23 days
11-14 weeks
2-5 eggs

Roseate spoonbills are serially monogamous and stay with one partner during one breeding season. They nest in small colonies and males constantly defend their territories against intruders. Preferred nesting areas usually include shrubs, trees, or often mangroves. The nest is a large cup-shaped structure made with small branches and stems. The female lays 2 to 5 whitish with brown markings eggs and both parents incubate them for 22-23 days. The chicks are altricial. They are born naked, helpless, and blind. At 35-42 days after hatching the young leave the nest and begin to fly when they are 7-8 weeks old.


Population threats

Roseate spoonbills are threatened by the destruction of their natural habitat. They also suffer from human disturbances, illegal hunting, and pesticides.

Population number

According to Partners in Flight resource the total breeding population size of the Roseate spoonbill is 120,000 breeding individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Spoonbills are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Roseate spoonbills receive their bright coloring from the diet. The organic pigment, called carotenoid, is produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria, and fungi. This carotenoid can be yellow, orange, or red and gives the characteristic color to pumpkins, carrots, corn, tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, salmon, lobster, shrimp, and even daffodils.
  • Roseate spoonbills have an interesting gait. When they walk they swing the head back and forth in a sideways motion.
  • The nostrils of spoonbills are located near the base of the bill so that the birds can breathe while their bill is submerged in water.
  • Spoonbills have a binocular vision, although, when foraging, tactile senses for these birds are important too.
  • Spoonbill chicks are born with short and straight bills, and only gain the characteristic spoon-shape as they mature.


1. Roseate Spoonbill on Wikipedia -
2. Roseate Spoonbill on The IUCN Red Lis tsite -

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