Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)
The Roseate Spoonbill is at once beautiful and bizarre. Its rose-colored plumage is striking even from a distance. Viewed more closely, the bald greenish head and unusual spoon-shaped bill of this elegantly plumed bird are apparent. Only the northern edge of the Roseate Spoonbill's range lies within the United States. This neo-tropical bird can be found in many areas around the Gulf of Mexico, and breeds in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.
The Roseate Spoonbill feeds by wading through shallow water, head down, probing the bottom by sweeping its long, spoon-shaped bill back and forth in the water. Prey is detected by touch, and the bill snaps immediately shut around the small fish, crustaceans, and insects that make up the bulk of the diet. Roseate Spoonbills attain their pink coloration from the pigments attained from the crustaceans that they feed upon.
Roseate Spoonbill numbers were reduced to near extinction by the late 19thcentury. The bird was hunted ruthlessly, its plumes used in ladies' hats, and its wings sold as fans. By 1939, about 30 birds were all that remained of the thousands that formerly inhabited Florida. The greatest current threat to the Roseate Spoonbill is habitat loss. As coastal marshes are drained, developed, or polluted by industry, less suitable breeding habitat is available for the birds--a particular concern in coastal Louisiana.
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