While exploring and photographing at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in December, I was fortunate to see and photograph a Roseate Spoonbill. Roseate Spoonbills are very unusual, large wading birds with pink plumage, red eyes and legs, and a distinctive spatulate bill. They usually are seen and travel in small flocks, but this one was alone and flew into the pond where I was photographing other wading birds.
Roseate Spoonbills were hunted to near extinction because their pink primary feathers were sought after by hunters for use in the construction of ladies’ fans in the late 1800s and early 1900s. By 1930, there were only 30-40 breeding pairs in Florida. Today, because they were banned from hunting, they have rebounded, and there are over 1,000 breeding pairs in Florida.
Roseate Spoonbills inhabit marshes, swamps, ponds and rivers, and feed in both freshwater and salt wetlands. They consume a varied diet of small fish, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates, and some plant material. They feed in shallow water and are interesting to watch, because they walk through the water swinging their heads back and forth with their spoonbills in the water snapping shut when they feel prey in it.
My favorite image of this spoonbill is below with its feathers ruffled out. Double click on the image to see it in more detail.
For the photographers reading this article, all of the above images were taken with a Nikon D300 at 850mm, Aperture Priority at f8 with varying shutter speeds, and ISO 200).