Definitions

spoonbill

spoonbill

[spoon-bil]
spoonbill, common name for a large wading bird related to the ibis. It has a long bill with a tip like a flattened spoon, with which it captures small aquatic animals. The roseate spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja, its plumage rosy pink accented with carmine on the wings and tail, is found from the Gulf states S to Argentina and Chile. In the United States it was almost exterminated for its feathers. The common spoonbill of Europe, Asia, and Africa, Platalea leucorodia, is white and crested. Other species are found in Australia, Japan, and tropical Africa. The unrelated shoveler duck is sometimes called spoonbill, and there is a spoon-billed sandpiper. Spoonbills are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Ciconiiformes, family Threskiornithidae.

Any of six species (family Threskiornithidae) of long-necked, long-legged wading birds, inhabitants of Old and New World estuaries, saltwater bayous, and lakes. They are 24–32 in. (60–80 cm) long and have a short tail and a long, straight bill that is spatulate at the tip. Most species are white, sometimes rose-tinged; the roseate spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja) of North and South America is deep pink and strikingly beautiful. With a side-to-side motion of the bill, they sweep mud and shallow water for fishes and crustaceans. They fly with neck and legs extended and wings flapping steadily. Breeding colonies build stick nests in low bushes and trees. Some species, including the black-billed spoonbill, are endangered. Seealso ibis.

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"Spoonbill" could also mean Northern Shoveler or Paddlefish.

Spoonbills are a group of large, long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae, which also includes the Ibises.

All have large, flat, spatulate bills and feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping the partly-opened bill from side to side. The moment any small aquatic creature touches the inside of the bill—an insect, crustacean, or tiny fish—it is snapped shut. Spoonbills generally prefer fresh water to salt but are found in both environments. They need to feed many hours each day.

Spoonbills are monogamous, but, so far as is known, only for one season at a time. Most species nest in trees or reed-beds, often with ibises or herons. The male gathers nesting material—mostly sticks and reeds, sometimes taken from an old nest—the female weaves it into a large, shallow bowl or platform which varies in its shape and structural integrity according to species.

The female lays a clutch of about 3 smooth, oval, white eggs and both parents incubate; chicks hatch one at a time rather than all together. The newly-hatched young are blind and cannot care for themselves immediately; both parents feed them by partial regurgitation. Chicks' bills are short and straight, and only gain the characteristic spoonbill shape as they mature. Their feeding continues for a few weeks longer after the family leaves the nest. The primary cause of brood failure appears not to be predation but starvation.

The spoonbill family is one of the families in the order Ciconiiformes.

Species and distribution

The six species of spoonbill in two genera are distributed over much of the world.

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  • Common Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia): This is the most widespread species, which occurs in the northeast of Africa and much of Europe and Asia across to Japan. Adults and juveniles are largely white with black outer wing-tips and dark bills and legs. Breeds in reed-beds, usually without other species.
  • Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor): Found in Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan.
  • African Spoonbill (Platalea alba): Breeds in Africa and Madagascar. A large white species similar to Common Spoonbill, from which it can be distinguished by its pink face and usually paler bill. Its food includes insects and other small creatures, and it nests in trees, marshes or rocks.
  • Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia): Most common in south-east Australia, but regularly found in smaller numbers on other parts of the continent when temporary wetlands form; in New Zealand, particularly the South Island, and sometimes as stragglers in New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands. Its food is aquatic life, and it nests in trees, marshes or reed-beds.
  • Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes): Common in south-east Australia, not unusual on the remainder of the continent, vagrant to New Zealand, Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. Its food includes aquatic life, and it nests in trees, marshes or reed-beds.
  • Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja or Ajaia ajaja): Adults are largely pink. They occur in South America, the Caribbean, Texas and southern Florida USA. They nest in Mangrove trees and feed on aquatic life.

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