Roseate Spoonbill: Ajaja ajaja
Is it the luminous pale pink plumage with red highlights or the
long bill with the spoon shaped tip that so enchants those lucky
enough to view this long-legged wader that is a member of the ibis
Prior to the 1850s, there were probably thousands of spoonbills
along the Gulf Coast in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. By 1920,
plume hunting and colony disturbance largely depleted the spoonbill
population in the United States. A 1999 survey of nesting
populations estimated 408 pairs in Florida Bay in the Florida Keys,
Merritt Island, Tampa Bay and at two freshwater sites in the
Everglades. The Florida Bay population represents the majority of
the spoonbills that nest in the state. During the summer, roseate
spoonbills are also found in Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, and Central
and South America.
Though plume hunting has ceased, spoonbills are still vulnerable
today to habitat loss and alteration. In Florida Bay, freshwater
inflows from the Everglades adversely affect the salinities of
coastal wetlands and the population of fish and other prey. The
roseate spoonbill is listed as a Species of Special Concern.
The spatulate bill of this species has an important function. It
has sensitive nerve endings that help the spoonbill detect prey. As
it sweeps the bill from side to side through shallow water, the
spoonbill encounters small fish, shrimp, crayfish, fiddler crabs
and aquatic insects, which it snaps up and swallows.