Roseate Spoonbills Horizontal
48" x 65" unframed
55" x 72" framed
© SHELLEY HESSE 2015
I know that I must have been a Roseate Spoonbill in a past life. Never has a bird spoken to my soul in quite the way that the Roseate Spoonbill has. These birds haunt me and pop up in my imagination again and again. It is a wading bird of the ibis and spoonbill family whose legs, neck, and spatulate bill all appear elongated. Like the flamingo, their pink color is diet-derived, and their colors can range from pale pink to bright magenta, depending on age and location. Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched. They live in mangrove swamps, mud flats, and other marsh type habitat from southern Georgia, Texas, Louisiana and Florida, then south through Central America and down to Argentina. The spoonbill wades in both fresh and saltwater wetlands, using its bill to scoop fish, small crabs, crustaceans, insects, and frogs. Hunting is done more by touch than sight.
This beautiful, large, and gregarious bird was nearly hunted to extinction in the last part of the 19th century. Its pink feathers were used in ladies' hats, and its wings were sold as fans. By 1939, about 30 birds remained in Florida. Interestingly, the spoonbill's pink plumage quickly fades once the feathers are no longer attached to a living bird. The good news is Roseate Spoonbills have made a comeback and currently have many champions monitoring and advocating for them, particularly the Gulf Restoration Network and Audubon of Florida. Now over a thousand pairs nest in Florida where they are stable along the Gulf Coast, yet still sinking in numbers in the broad estuary between the Everglades and the Keys.
- Roger Tory Peterson
“One of the most breathtaking of the world’s weirdest birds.”