Roseate Spoonbills in Florida
Roseate spoonbills, known for their bright pink color and sometimes mistaken for flamingos, were overhunted in the late 1800s when their bright plumes sold for $2 each and were used as fans.
The colorful pink roseate spoonbill is unquestionably the emblematic bird of Florida. Therefore, by all rights, it ought to be the official state bird, but it's not.
Instead, the 1927 legislature chose the mockingbird, a year around resident whose Latin name means "a bird of many tongues," something old-time politicians themselves were often quite adept at.
The roseate spoonbill was almost extinct by the mid-twentieth century, but the bird is bouncing back quite strongly. Its broad, flattened beak, whose tip is not too different from the shape of a manatee's tail, is characteristic of birds young and old.
The bill is important in feeding, where the bird moves its bill from side to side underwater in search of shrimp and small fish. The flat bill also comes in handy for searching soft shallow muddy areas for insects and crustaceans.
More than anything else, the preservation of the bird's shallow feeding areas in Florida Bay and elsewhere is paramount to the roseate spoonbill's survival.
Roseate Nesting Season
In Florida Bay and other parts of South Florida, roseates nest during November and December. In Central Florida, breeding occurs several months later, around April. In all areas, the nests are built in low, dense mangroves or trees, often sharing the same territory as herons and ibis.
Roseate spoonbills, which normally lay three eggs, build sturdy, deep nests made of sticks.
Immature birds display a soft pink on their wings and back that darkens with age. They attain their bright pink, mature colors at about three years of age. The pink is accented by a distinctive orange tail and shoulders, rump, and chest patch that are all bright red. The skin on the sides and back of the neck is a dark black.
A little gaudy overall, perhaps, like the dresses of French can-can girls, but it's no wonder plume hunters wanted these birds so badly they almost completely exterminated them.
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