The Roseate Spoonbill is a tall wading bird found along the gulf coast. Roseate Spoonbills are sometimes confused with a flamingo by inexperienced birder.
The colors of a Florida dawn are mirrored in one of the State’s most prominent feathered inhabitants. Pink rules!
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Description of the Roseate Spoonbill
The Roseate Spoonbill is a tall wading bird with a spoon-shaped enlargement at the end of its bill. It has a white neck and pale reddish body and wings.
Visit the Bent Life History page for extensive additional information. Length: 32 in. Wingspan: 50 in.
Females similar to males.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles resemble adults but are much paler red.
Coastal marshes and mudflats.
Small fish and invertebrates.
Forages by sweeping its bill through the water.
Resident in Texas and Florida, and occurs during the breeding season in parts of Louisiana.
The pink pigments in the Roseate Spoonbill’s plumage come from its diet.
Roseate Spoonbills can swim, but they only do so if necessary.
A repeated “huh-huh-huh” alarm call is occasionally given, although is generally silent.
- Can only be confused with the flamingo, which has a much shorter bill. Wild flamingos are very rare in the United States.
The nest is a platform of sticks placed in a tree.
Color: White with darker markings.
Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at 22-24 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) in 35-42 days after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Roseate Spoonbill
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Roseate Spoonbill – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
AJAIA AJAJA (Linnaeus)
This unique and beautiful species is one of the many which have paid the supreme penalty for their beauty and been sacrificed by the avaricious hand of man, who can never resist the temptation to destroy and appropriate to his own selfish use nature’s most charming creatures. He never seems to realize that others might like to enjoy an occasional glimpse at a group ot these gorgeous birds, clearly outlined in pink and white against a background of dark green mangroves; nor does he appreciate how much a Florida landscape is enhanced by the sight of a flock of “pink c~lews” fading away over the tree tops, until the glow of rose-colored wings is lost in the distant blue of the sky. All his sordid mind can grasp is the thought of a pair of pretty wings and the money they will bring when made into ladies’ fans! And so a splendid bird, once common in Florida and all along the GuM coast to Texas, has been gradually driven from its former haunts and is making its last stand in a few remote and isolated localities. The roseate spoonbill never enjoyed a wide distribution, nor was it ever found commonly very far inland. Audubon (1840) implies that in his time it wandered as far north as North Carolina, though it was not common even in South Carolina; he also speaks of a specimen sent to Wilson from Natchez, Mississippi. Dr. Frank M. Chapman (1914) writes:
In 1858, when Dr. Henry Bryant visited Pelican Island, on Indian River, he found not only brown pelicans, but also roseate spoonbills nesting there. But even at that early date these beautiful and interesting birds were prey for the plumer, some of whom, Dr. Bryant writes, were killing as many as 60 spoonbills a day, and sending their wings to St. Augustine to be sold as fans. From that time almost to this, “Pink Curlews,” as the Floridan calls them, have been a mark for every man with a gun. Only a remnant was left when the National Association of Audubon Societies protested against the further wanton destruction of bird life, and through its wardens and by the establishment of reservations, attempted to do for Florida what the State had not enough foresight to do for itself.
Writing at the time when the destruction of plume birds was flourishing, W. E. D. Scott (1889) says:
The record in regard to the species in question is even more shocking than that of the flamingo. The roseate spoonhill was 10 years ago an abundant bird on the Gulf Coast of Florida, as far north at least as the mouth of the Anclote River. The birds bred in enormous rookeries in the region about Cape Romano and to the south of that point. These rookeries have been described to me by men who helped to destroy them, as being frequently of many acres in extent and affording breeding grounds to thousands of roseate spoonbills. The birds bred in January and were in the best plumage late in November and in December. They do not seem to have bred north of Charlotte Harbor, so far as I am able to ascertain, but immediately after the breeding season was finished, and as soon as the young were able to shift for themselves, there was a great dispersal of the birds to the northward, particularly along the coast, though they were common at points in the interior. All this is changed. I have spent the past four winters and two summers in Florida. My old hunting grounds have all been carefully retraversed, some of them many times, and the roscate spoonbill is almost as great a stranger to me as to my fellow workers who live the year round in Massachusetts.
Nesting: I have twice visited one of the few remaining breeding resorts of the roseate spoonbill in Florida, in 1903 and 1908. We had toiled all day, dragging our skiffs over miles of mud flats, poling them through several lakes and laboriously pushing and hauling them through the tortuous channels of sluggish streams, choked with roots and fallen tree trunks, in the almost impenetrable mangrove swamps of extreme southern Florida. The afternoon was well spent when we emerged on the open waters of Cutlibert Lake and saw ahead of us the object of our search, a mangrove island, about a mile distant, literally covered with birds. It was a beautiful sight as the afternoon sun shone full upon it; hundreds of white and blue herons, and a score or two of beautiful “pink curlews” could be plainly seen against the dark green of the mangroves, like feathered gems on a cushion of green velvet. As we drew nearer the picture became more animated, we could see the birds more clearly and we began to realize what a variety of birds and what a host of them the far famed Cuthbert rookery contained. The taller trees in the center of the island were dotted with the great white American egrets, perhaps 300 or 400 of them, watching us from points of vantage; on the mangroves below them, among the hundreds of white ibises, we could see about 75 or 100 of the rare roseate spoonbills; the outer edges of the mangroves, growing in the water, were black with Florida cormorants and anhingas; and everywhere were flocks and clouds of Louisiana and little blue herons. The egrets and the spoonbills were the first to leave; the former rose deliberately, long before we were within gunshot range, and flapped lazily away on their broad white wings; the latter were equally shy, flying around the island, circling to a considerable height and then flying straight away, with their necks outstreehed and their feet extended, in long lines or in wedge-shaped flocks; we watched them longingly as they faded away in the distant sky with the blush of sunset glowing through their roseate wings. Then hundreds of white ihises were rising from the mangroves with a mighty roar of wings and scores of cormorants were dropping off the outer branches into the water. When fairly in their midst, the air seemed full of the smaller herons, flopping up ahead of us, drifting around the island and floating over us; and mingled with them were circling water turkeys, soaring turkey vultures, and hovering fish crows, ready to pounce on unprotected eggs.
We landed on the island and found it much like other islands of its class in southern Florida; it was not over two acres in total extent, with not over an acre of dry land in the center. The dry land was covered mainly with black mangroves, mixed with some white button-woods; it was surrounded by a wide belt of red mangroves growing in the mud and water, which was 3 feet deep at the outer edge.
The nesting sites of the roseate spoonbills were in the densest part of the red mangroves among the nests of the white ibises. On my first trip to this rookery, on May 1, 1903, we saw only 12 spoonbills in the colony and found only three nests, one containing a single heavily incubated egg, one a handsome set of three eggs and the other holding two downy young, not quite half grown. The nests were all on nearly horizontal branches of the red mangroves, near the edge of the water, and were from 12 to 15 feet above the mud or water. They were easily recognized as they were quite different from the other nests in the rookery; they were larger than the nests of the ibises or the small herons and were made of larger sticks; they were about the size of a water turkey’s nest, but were more neatly made without the use of dead leaves, so characteristic of the latterspecies. The nests were deeply hollowed and were lined with strips of inner bark and water moss. At the time of my second visit, on March 29, 1908, the spoonbills had increased to 75 or more, but we were too early to find them well along with their nesting. A number of nests had been built or were in process of construction, but only four contained fresh eggs; there were one set of four, one set of three eggs and two nests with one egg each. All of the nests were grouped together, well inside the rookery, in the densest and most shady portion and placed on the lower branches of the red mangroves with more or less water or soft mud under them. The nest containing ~he set of four eggs was about 10 feet up on a horizontal branch; it was a large nest of course sticks, lined with finer twigs and with the dead and yellow leaves of the red mangrove; it measured 16 inches in outside diameter, 7 inches inside and was hollowed to a depth of about 2 inches. The other nests were similarly constructed.
One of the principal objects of my trip to Texas in 1923 was to find the breeding grounds of the roseate spoonbills; many observers had seen them in flocks at various points along the coast, but their nesting places had not been discovered. We were told that they nested on the islands in the bays, where the herons breed; and George Finlay Simmons said he had found nests and young birds on one of the islands late in the season. The nests were built on the ground among the sunflowers after the herons had finished breeding and gone; and Mr. Simmons said he found pink feathers in some of the nests. Such nesting habits, so different from the customary habits of the species, must have been very unusual or merely casual.
But I think we solved the mystery when we found large numbers of roseate spoonbills nesting in the midst of an immense rookery of white ibises away off in the wilds of Victoria County. It took us four days to locate this rookery, by watching the lines of flight of the birds to and from their feeding grounds, in an immense tract of swamps and heavily forested country in the lowlands along the Guad-alupe River. This rookery is more fully described under the white ibis. The center of abundance of the spoonbills was a partially dry, but muddy, spot surrounded by water where a group of large trees7 water oaks, and large elms, afforded some shade over a denser growth of small trees and bushes below. Here a great many nests were grouped closely together, from 6 to 15 feet above the ground, in the smaller trees and bushes. Spoonbill’s nests were also scattered all over the rookery among the, nests of the white ibises, but usually in the more shady places. The spoonbills’ nests were easily recog~ mzed as they were larger, better made and more deeply hollowed; they were made of larger sticks and were lined with small twigs and with leaves, both green and dry. Most of the nests at that date, May 30, held three or four eggs, but many had small, pink, downy young; we did not find any large young.
Eggs: The roseate spoonbill lays ordinarily three eggs, sometimes only two, often four eggs and very rarely five. The eggs are easily recognized. In shape they vary from ovate to elliptical ovate or even elongate ovate. The shell is t.hick and rather roughly granulated, with no gloss. The ground color is usually dull or dirty white and the egg is more or less evenly covered with spots and small blotches of various shades of brown, “chestnut,” “auburn,” “russet,” or “tawny”; occasionally the markings are concentrated around the larger end. A particularly handsome set has a pinkish, creamy white ground color, more or less uniformly covered with dashes and spots of lavender, purple and drab, over which spots of various shades of brown are quite evenly distributed. The measurements of 40 eggs average 65 by 43.9 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measured 71.5 by 42.5, 68.1 by 47, 60.2 by 44.4, and 66 by 41 millimeters.
Young: The two young, referred to above, in the feeble, helpless stage, unable to stand as yet, were curious looking birds, flabby and fat, with enormous abdomens and soft ducklike bills; their color including bill, feet, legs, and entire skin, was a beautiful, deep, rich, salmon pink; they were scantily covered with short, white down, which was insufficient to conceal the color of the skin; the wing quills were well started, but still in sheaths. The bright pink color was very conspicuous at quite a distance and could be seen through the interstices of the nest, which was covered with whitish excrement, as were also the surrounding branches and the ground below; they are no neater than herons in this respect.
Dr. Frank M. Chapman (1914) says of the behavior of the young birds:
On April 17, 1910, I found a colony of about 200 pairs of roseate spoonbills on Pajaro Island, in Tamiahua Lagoon, on the Gulf coast of Mexico, south of Tampico. Most of the nests contained well-grown young at least a month old and probably older. Allowing a month for hatching, and it is evident that these birds begin to lay about the middle of February. In the Mexican colony, four was the usual number of young. They were well-behdved youngsters and, in the absence of their parents, rested peacefully in their homes, or occasionally ventured on thrilling excursions of a few feet to the adjoining limbs. But when their parents returned, they were all attention and on the alert for food. At such times they usually stood in a row on the edge of the nest facing the old birds, and in most comical manner swung the head and neck up and down. I have seen balanced mechanical toys which would make almost exactly the same motion. The toys, however, were silent, while the little spoonbills all joined in a chorus of tremulous, trilling whistles, which grew louder and more rapid as the parent approached. What their parents brought them I could not see, nor, for that matter, could they. But with a confidence born of experience, the bird that had the first opportunity pushed its lviii and head far down its parent’s bill to7get what ever was there. This singular operation sometimes lasted as long as 10 seconds, and it was terminated only by the parent which, much against the will of its offspring, disengaged itself; then, after a short rest, a second youngster was fed, and thus in due time the whole family was satisfied. The young now sank contentedly back in the nest, end the old ones stood quietly by, or went back to the shores and marshes for further supplies.
Audubon (1840) says:
During the moult, which takes place in Florida late in May, the young of the preceding year conceal themselves among the close branches of the mangroves and other trees growing over narrow inlets, between secluded keys, or on bayous where they spend the whole day, and whence it is difficult to start them. Toward night they return to their feeding grounds, generally keeping apart from the old birds.
Plumages: The downy, young, roseate spoonbillis a “pink curlew” and a real “spoonbill.” The living young when seen in the nest is decidedly pink in appearance, bright, rich salmon pink, but this is due entirely to the color of the skin; the bill and feet are practically the same color. This color fades mere or less in the dried skin to “orange pink” or “light salmon orange” and in some cases to dull yellow or buff; one specimen that I have had in my collection for over 20 years is still quite pink. The bill is broad and flat, like a duck’s bill, and somewhat decurved. The young bird, when first hatched, is entirely covered with a sparse growth of short white down, through which the pink skin shows plainly. The down increases in length and density until the bird is entirely covered with thick wooly down. The wing quills appear at an early age and the first, or juvenal plumage is aquired before the young bird leaves the nest. This is mainly white, with a slight suffusion of pink under the wings and in the tail; the crown, cheeks, and throat are covered with white plumage, and not naked as in adults; in the juvenal wing the outer primaries are dusky-tipped, about half of the outer webs and less than half of the inner webs, the amount of dusky decreasing inwardly; the primary coverts and the greater wing coverts, are similarly marked.
The first winter plumage is a continuation of the juvenal with progressive changes toward maturity. The head and neck remain white, but the mantle and breast become gradually pinker. In some juvenal birds a little carmine appears in the lesser wing coverts and upper tail coverts during the winter and spring, but usually there is no trace of this color during the first year. The dusky-tipped wing coverts are molted before spring, but not the remiges. The tail is molted and replaced by one which is very pale buff. The feathered head and the juvenal primaries are retained until the first complete molt takes place in summer, from June to September.
At this molt, the first postnuptial, the young bird assumes a plumage which is much like that of the winter adult. The head, crown, cheeks, and throat, become wholly or partially naked; the wings, tail, and body are all pink, but with no carmine; and the neck and part of the breast are white. Sometimes this second winter plumage is worn without much change through the following spring; but usually at the second prenuptial molt, in late winter or early spring, a second nuptial plumage is assumed, including the buff tail, the carmine lesser wing coverts and more or less of the roseate and carmine colors in the body plumage. This plumage is much like the adult nuptial, but the highest perfection of plumage is not assumed until the following year, when the young bird is nearly three years old.
The adult apparently has a complete postnuptial molt in summer, mainly in July, August, and September, and an incomplete prenuptial molt in January, February, and March, which involves the tail, the lesser wing coverts and most of the contour plumage. In the highest perfection of the adult nuptial plumage there is much rich carmine in the lesser wing coverts and in the upper and lower tail coverts; a bunch of curly carmine feathers adorns the center of the breast, which is also suffused with pink and with “ochraceous buff”; sometimes the neck is mottled with a few carmine feathers; and the tail is a rich “ochraceous buff.” I have seen birds in full nuptial plumage in November and December, but am inclined to think that these are exceptional. In most of the birds that I have called winter adults the carmine markings have been lacking or nearly so, the pink colors have been paler and more restricted and the tails have been pink instead of buff; however, these may be second winter birds and adults may show very little seasonal change; but material showing the postauptial molt of adults is scarce.
Food: Audubon (1840) has described the feeding habits of this species very well, as follows:
They are as nocturnal as the night heron, and, although they seek for food at times during the middle of the day, their principal feeding time is from near sunset until daylight. To all such feeding grounds as are exposed to the tides, they beï take themselves when it is low water, and search for food along the shallow margins until driven off by the returning tide. Few birds are better aware of the hours at which the waters are high or low, and when it is near ebb you see them wending their way to the shore, whenever a feeding place seems to be productive, the spoonbills are wont to return to it until they have been much disturbed, and persons aware of this fact may waylay them with success, as at such times one may shoot them while passing overhead. To procure their food, the spoonhills first generally alight near the water, into which they then wade up to the tibia, and immerse their bills in the water or soft mud, sometimes with the head and even the whole neck beneath the surface. They frequently withdraw these parts, however, and look around to ascertain if danger is near. They move their partially opened mandibles laterally to and fro with a considerable degree of elegance, munching the fry, insects, or small shellfish, which they secure, before swallowing them. When there are many together, one usually acts as sentinel, unless a heron should be near; and in either case you may despair of approaching them. I have never seen one of these birds feeding in fresh water, although I have been told that this is sometimes the case. To all those keys in the Floridas, in which ponds have been dug for the making of salt, they usually repair in the evening for the purpose of feeding; but the shallow inlets in the great salt marshes of our southern coasts are their favorite places of resort.
N. 13. Moore says in his notes that this species feeds in both salt and fresh water and that he has found in the stomachs fishes, prawns or shrimps, and coleopterous insects.
There are very little other data available as to the food of the roseate spoonbill, but G. B. Benners (1887) says:
I noticed one of these birds while feeding, and after it caught a fish it would beat it against the water before swallowing it. This was done apparently for the purpose of killing the fish.
Behavior: In flight the spoonbills show their relationship to the ibises; when flying in flocks they usually form in diagonal lines or in wedge-shaped flocks, each bird a little behind and to one side of the bird ahead of it, so as to take advantage of the aerial waves caused by the advancing flock, after the manner of wild geese. The head and neck are fully outstretched, with the bill pointing straight forward, and the feet are extended backward under the tail and projecting beyond it. The wings, which are large for the size of the bird, beat the air steadily with rather slow, long strokes. I have occasionally seen spoonbills set their wings and scale like ibises, but this is not so customary with spoonbills as with pelicans, cormorants, and ibises.
Anduhon’s (1840) account of their behavior is well worth quoting; he writes:
The sight of a flock of 15 or 20 of these foil-dressed birds is extremely pleasing to the student of nature, should he conceal himself from their yiew, for then be may observe their movements and manners to advantage. Now, they all stand with their wings widely extended to receive the sun’s rays, or perhaps to court the cooling breeze, or they enjoy either seated on their tarsi. Again they all stalk about with graceful steps along the margin of the muddy pool, or wade in the shallows in search of food. After awhile they rise simultaneously on wing, and gradually ascend in a spiral manner to a great height, where you see them crossing each other in a thousand ways, like so many vultures or ibises. At length, tired of this pastime, or perhaps urged by hunger, they return to their feeding grounds in a zigzag course, and plunge through the air, as if displaying their powers of flight before you. These birds fly with their necks stretched forward to their full length, and their legs and feet extended behind, moving otherwise in the manner of herons, or with easy flappings, until about to alight, when they sail with expanded wings, passing once or twice over the spot, and then gently coming to the ground, on which they run a few steps. When traveling to a distant place they proceed in regular ranks, but on ordinary occasions they fly in a confused manner. When the sun is shining, and they are wheeling on wing previous to alighting, their roseate tints exhibit a richer glow, which is surpassed only by the brilliancy of the scarlet ibis and the American flamingo.
The vocal performances of the roseate spoonbill are not elaborate or conspicuous. The only note I heard from them on their breeding grounds was a grunting croak in a low key and so subdued as not to be audible at any great distance. Doctor Chapman (1914) refers to it as “a low, croaking call.” Audubon does not mention it. Mr. Benners (1887) describes it as “a sort of cluck like a hen.” Fall: After the breeding season is over, either early or late in the spring, these birds spread out over a wider territory, which they occupy more or less regularly during the summer, fall, and early winter. This spreading out includes what might be called a northward migration; it is between breeding seasons that the northward extension of range is made. The birds which breed on the east coast of Mexico, in the lagoons south of Tampico, migrate in the spring northward to the coast of Texas and perhaps beyond. On this subject Samuel N. IRhoads (1892) writes:
On the 28th of May, accompanied by Mr. Priour, I sailed down to the mouth of the Nueces River in search of these birds. At a distance of 2 miles a couple of large flocks could be described as a dull rosy streak along the water’s edge. We approached near enough to make, with the aid of a glass, an excellent survey of the flocks in the act of feeding before they noticed our presence. When within about 200 yards of them, the whole company of four or five hundred individuals simultaneously raised their heads and faced about. On approaching some 50 yards nearer, the sudden righting about just mentioned was succeeded by a most interesting series of maneuvers, consisting of a contraction and filling in of all the gaps in the line; and jist as this was completed, with a rush of wings and a glorious burst of color, they arose. Many other detachments joined them until the entire flock numbered about 600. Most of these alighted some 2 miles off, while a few returned to their former feeding ground. The spoonbills now leave the vicinity of Corpus Christi the latter part of February, and though a few stragglers sometimes remain all the year, none have been known to breed on the Texas coast of late years. This state of affairs is probably due to their persecution and to the destruction of the forests between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, which used to reach nearer the river mouths, affording this formerly abundant species suitable rookery sites. It is probable that most of the flock of bir~ds seen on Nueces Bay were raised somewhere on the coast south of Brownsville. After raising their young in comparative safety, they return yearly to this spot to spend the summer and early winter months, arriving in considerable numbers, even so early as the latter part of April, and attaining their maximum numbers in the latter part of May. Their evident attachment to the vicinity of Nueces Bay must be due to the facilities it affords them in the great item of food supply, for the reception accorded these birds by Corpus Christi gunners is far from encouraging.
The spoonbills which breed in southern Florida wander far northward after the breeding season; Audubon (1840) took one 10 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina, and says:
The spoonhills are so sensible of cold, that those which spend the winter on the Keys, near Cape Sable in Florida, rarely leave those parts for the neighborhood of St. Augustine before the first days of March. But after this you may find them along most of the water courses running parallel to the coast, and distant about half a mile or a mile from it. I saw none on any part of the St. John’s river; and from all the answers which I obtained to my various inquiries respecting this bird, I feel confident that it never breeds in the interior of the peninsula, nor is ever seen there in winter. The roseate spoonbill is found for the most part along the marshy and muddy borders of estuaries, the mouths of rivers, ponds, or sea islands or keys partially overgrown with bushes, and perhaps still more commonly along the shores of those singular salt-water bayous so abundant within a mile or so of the shores, where they can reside and breed in perfect security in the midst of an abundance of food. It is more or less gregarious at all seasons, and it is rare to meet with fewer than half a dozen together, unless they have been dispersed by a tempest, in which case one of them is no~v and then found in a situation where you would least expect it. At the approach of the breeding season, these small flocks collect to form great bodies, as is the manner of the ibises, and resort to their former places of residence, to which they regularly return, like herons.
Warden Kroegel, of Pelican Island, saw a flock of 60, in June, 1913, on the Mesquite Inlet Reservation, far north of the breeding range of this species.
Winter: In southern Florida the roseate spoonbill is resident all the year round, but it frequents different localities in winter and wanders about more, feeding in large flocks in the shallows of the Bay of Florida, in the muddy inlets along the shore and in the shallow lakes and sloughs near the coast. One of their favorite feeding grounds is a large, so-called “slough” near Cape Sable, but very different in character from the typical western prairie slough. This is apparently a submerged forest, killed by inundations from the sea, the remains of which are still standing, tall, dead trees, many of them of large size, bare and bleached. During the fall and early winter the slough is full of water but at the time we were there, in April, it was partially dry in spots, but mostly soft and boggy, with sluggish streams and numerous shallow muddy pools scattered through it, forming fine feeding grounds for spoonbills, ibises, and other water birds. There is an4tber favorite resort of the spoonbills on one of the keys which has a fair sized lake in the centre. Large flocks of “pink curlews,” as they are called by the natives, had been seen almost daily flying to and from this lake. Owing to this fact we were led to suppose that we might find a breeding rookery here, but a day’s search failed to reveal even a single bird. I am inclined to infer that they come here only to feed in the shallow muddy waters of the lake or to roost in the mangroves around it.
I have seen and several other observers have reported seeing flocks of roseate spoonbills, numbering from half a dozen to 50 or 60 birds, at various points on the coast of Texas during the spring. One large flock constantly frequented the chain of islands between Mesquite and San Antonio Bays on May 15 and 16; we spent some time chasing them from one island to another, but could not drive them away from that vicinity. Our guides felt confident that they would nest there in June, as it was here that Mr. Simmons had found the nests referred to above. The theory has also been advanced that these are birds which have bred on the coast of Mexico earlier in the season and wandered north after the breeding season. Most of these birds that I saw were in immature plumage, though some few seemed to be nearly adult, perhaps barren or unmated birds. I believe that they were all nonbreeders and were simply wandering around in flocks.
Range: South and Central America, islands of the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf and south Atlantic coasts of the United States. East to the Atlantic coast of Florida (Indian River), the Bahama Islands (Great Inagua), eastern Brazil, (Pars). South to the central part of eastern Argentina (near Buenos Aires). West to the coast of Chile (Santiago), Peru (Lower Ucayali River), Costa Rica (La Palms), Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur), and Sinaloa (Mazatlan). North to Sinaloa (Mazatlan), Texas (Galveston Bay, Victoria County, and Beamont), and the coast of Louisiana (Cameron Parish and Lake Arthur). This range has been greatly restricted within the last few decades and the species is now probably extirpated from most of the Antillean Islands and from other regions where it was formerly a common breeder. In South America it is resident and of general distribution on both coasts and in the interior along the larger rivers
Casual records: Although the spoonbil is resident throughout its breeding range, small flocks and solitary birds have been recorded from long distances both to the north and to the south. A greatly emaciated specimen was collected near Kidney Cove and the remains of a second were found at Whalebone Bay, Falkiand Islands, in July, 1860, while Sciater and Hudson record a specimen from the Straits of Magellan.
In the United States stragglers have been taken or noted in California (San Bernardino, June 20, 1903); Utah (Wendover, July 2, 1919); Colorado (Howardsville, June, 1888, and Pueblo, August, 1890); Kansas (Douglas, March 20, 1899); Wisconsin, (near Janesyule, August, 1845); Indiana (Vincennes, spring of 1856, and Portland, July 14, 1889), and South Carolina (Charleston, June, 1879, and Yemassee, fall of 1885).
Egg dates: Florida: 25 records, January 4 to June 6; 13 records, January 16 to May 1. Louisiana: 8 records, May 22 to June 2.