Roseate Spoonbills at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
The Roseate Spoonbill lives up to its name, spectacularly. The bird is, after all, roseate, and, not only that, but it has a big honking circle on the end of its bill that sure looks like a spoon. Platalea ajaja is a marvelous bird and I was delighted to make its acquaintance - for only the second time in my life – at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Black Point Drive when I was attending the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in January. And there were several birds, often feeding close to shore, much different from my first encounter with the species along another fabled wildlife drive, the one at Brigantine in New Jersey.
What’s not to like about a big pink bird with a bizarre bill? Nothing, that’s what. I could watch them walking through the water, swishing their bills from side to side as they search for invertebrates and other yummy bottom dwellers, all day long. Sadly, on my trip to Florida I never had all day long to spend on a single species as the profusion of birding possibilities was just too great to burn hours on one bird but, if I had chosen one, it may well have been the Roseate Spoonbill, a bird even non-birders can scarcely avoid admiring. The lack of time means that some of these shots were taken with less-than-ideal lighting conditions but I figured that you all would forgive me for that considering the awesomeness of the subject matter.
Roseate Spoonbills are one of six species of spoonbill in the genus Platalea though some consider them far enough removed from the rest of the spoonbills that they should be given their own genus in which case they would be called Ajaja ajaja, which has a nice ring to it. They are found in South America, the Caribbean, and the gulf coast states in the southeastern United States. They do tend to wander after breeding which explains my first encounter with that New Jersey bird. Because of its large range and large and stable population it is listed as a Species of Least Concern by BirdLife International, good news for those of us who are amazed by big, pink birds.
Enjoy these shots and here’s hoping that some big, pink birds are in front of you sometime soon!
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