Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Roseate spoonbill
Ajaia ajaja

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Ciconiiformes
  • Family: Threskiornithidae
  • Genus: Ajaia
  • Species: Ajaia ajaja
  • Authority: Linnaeus

Comments on taxonomy:
Recorded Platalia ajaia by Linnaeus 1758, syst. nat. Genera changed to Ajaia by Reichenbach 1853, avian syst. & nat. (1812) *02*. Other names: pink curlew, rosy spoonbill *03*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Extirpated; formerly very rare resident in central and southern IL *01*. No records since Apr. 28, 1887, Adams Co. *00*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

Comments on status:
The roseate spoonbill is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Of 1918 *04* tnd the Illinois Wildlife Code of 1972 *05*. The National Audubon Society has protected many breeding, feeding, and concentration areas used by this species since 1902 *07*.

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

Forest cover types: No records.

Associated tree species:

  • Species other than those on IFWIS list

 

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Estuarine Intertidal Emergent vegetation Persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal hyperhaline
Estuarine Intertidal Emergent vegetation Persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Estuarine Intertidal Emergent vegetation Broadleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal hyperhaline
Estuarine Intertidal Emergent vegetation Broadleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Estuarine Intertidal Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal hyperhaline
Estuarine Intertidal Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Estuarine Intertidal Scrub/shrub Broadleaved evergreen Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal hyperhaline
Estuarine Intertidal Scrub/shrub Broadleaved evergreen Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Lacustrine Littoral Emergent vegetation Persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Lacustrine Littoral Emergent vegetation Broadleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Lacustrine Littoral Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Lacustrine Littoral Scrub/shrub Broadleaved evergreen Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Broadleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Scrub/shrub Broadleaved evergreen Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Emergent vegetation Persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Emergent vegetation Persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Riverine Lower perennial Emergent vegetation Broadleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Emergent vegetation Broadleaved persistent Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Riverine Lower perennial Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Flat Mud Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)
Riverine Lower perennial Scrub/shrub Broadleaved evergreen Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Lower perennial Scrub/shrub Broadleaved evergreen Intermittently exposed/permanent nontidal Coastal mixohaline (brackish)

 

Comments on species-habitat associations:
The roseate spoonbill frequents marshes, swamps, ponds, rivers and lagoons *02*. Feeds along marshy muddy borders of estuaries, mouths of rivers, ponds, or sea islands, particularly overgrown with bushes, shallow muddy pools *06*. Saltwater or freshwater, usually non-tidal or low regular tides *06,07*. Typically breed in mangrove trees over mud or water *06*.

Important plant and animal association: No comments.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Water Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Streams and canals Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Lakes Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Reservoirs Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Bays and estuaries Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Wetland Special habitat All
Forested wetland Special habitat All
Nonforested wetland Special habitat All
Marsh Special habitat All
Brackish marsh Special habitat All
Swamp Special habitat All
Shrub swamp Special habitat All
Lakes and ponds Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All
Streams Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All

Species-habitat interrelations: The roseate spoonbill frequents satlwater and freshwater situations. Feeds in shallow waters, not deeper than the length of its lower leg, marshy muddy borders of estuaries, inlets, ponds, sloughs, tidal pools *03,06,07*. Nests mainly on mangrove islands in densely leaved low trees or bushes *03*. See [HA].

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Water Not applicable
(HVAL-HAB cover)
All Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, arthropods
Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, invertebrates other than zooplankton or arthropods
Water bottom-unconsolidated bottom, fish
Water bottom-aquatic bed, arthropods
Water bottom-aquatic bed, invertebrates other than zooplankton or arthropods
Water bottom-aquatic bed, fish
Water column- arthropods
Water column- invertebrates other than zooplankton or arthropods
Water column- fish

Comments on feed-guilding:
The roseate spoonbill is omnivorous and procures its food by swinging its head back and forth, sifting through mud and water, feeling for prey. It is restricted to shallow waters <1 ft. *07*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Wetland Special habitat Spring/summer Surface of water column-marine/estuarine, unconsolidated rooted woody plants
Surface of water column-river/lake/marsh, unconsolidated rooted woody plants
Marine/estuarine-vascular plants, emergent, woody
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, woody

Comments on breed-guilding:
The roseate spoonbill nests on mangrove islands or near water: places nest on horizontal branch of densely leaves low tree or bush *03,07*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is OMNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Plants Unknown
Arachnida (spiders, ticks, scorpions, daddy longlegs) Unknown
Crustaceans Unknown
Malacostraca (isopods, amphipods, crayfishes) Unknown
Insecta All
Hemiptera Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Osteichthyes (bony fishes) See comments
Cypriniformes (carps, minnows, loaches) Unknown
Atheriniformes (killfishes, livebearers, silversides) Unknown
Important:
Malacostraca (isopods, amphipods, crayfishes) Unknown
Osteichthyes (bony fishes) See comments
Cypriniformes (carps, minnows, loaches) Unknown
Atheriniformes (killfishes, livebearers, silversides) Unknown
Juvenile:
Malacostraca (isopods, amphipods, crayfishes) Unknown
Osteichthyes (bony fishes) See comments
Cypriniformes (carps, minnows, loaches) Unknown
Atheriniformes (killfishes, livebearers, silversides) Unknown
Adult:
Plants Unknown
Arachnida (spiders, ticks, scorpions, daddy longlegs) Unknown
Crustaceans Unknown
Malacostraca (isopods, amphipods, crayfishes) Unknown
Insecta All
Hemiptera Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Osteichthyes (bony fishes) See comments
Cypriniformes (carps, minnows, loaches) Unknown
Atheriniformes (killfishes, livebearers, silversides) Unknown

Comments on food habits: 
General: Roseate spoonbills are omnivorous; feed on fishes, crayfishes, aquatic beetles, insects and their larvae, small fishes, prawns and shrimp, isopods, amphipods, spiders, slugs, crustaceans, minute animal life *03,06,07*. Fish are important *07*.
Juvenile: Food habits similar to adults *07*.
Adult: See [FH].


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: saltwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: brackish water marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: coastal marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: mangrove swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: mud flats
  • Aquatic habitats: island inhabitant
  • Aquatic habitats: embayments
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Preferred trees: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Limiting:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.

Feeding juvenile:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: saltwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: brackish water marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: coastal marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: mangrove swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: mud flats
  • Aquatic habitats: island inhabitant
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting juvenile:

  • Aquatic habitats: mangrove swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: island inhabitant
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Biodegradable organics: clean waters that have not been polluted
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: saltwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: brackish water marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: freshwater marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: coastal marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: mangrove swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: mud flats
  • Aquatic habitats: island inhabitant
  • Aquatic habitats: embayments
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: mangrove swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: island inhabitant
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Breeding adult:

  • Aquatic habitats: mangrove swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: island inhabitant
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Preferred trees: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Roseate spoonbills frequent fresh, brackish, and saltwater wetlands, mangrove islands. They need unpolluted shallow waters to feed in *07*.
Feeding juvenile: Juveniles are fed in and near the nest, then feed in shallow water situations similar to adults *07*.
Resting juvenile: Juveniles rest in or near the nest in branches; assume adopt behavior of adults *06,07*.
Feeding adult: Adults feed in shallow water situations, always <1 ft. *07*.
Resting adult: Adults rest near nest, in larger trees of rookeries *07*.
Breeding adult: Adults breed in dense growths of mangroves, low trees and bushes: usually on an island *07*; usually 6-15 ft. above water *08*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *01*

Physical description: Only spoonbill native to western hemisphere; 30-34 in. long; wingspread to 50 in.; sexes outwardly alike; adult bright pink-and-white wading bird with spoonlike bill; neck, breast, and back whitish; tail orange; bright red shoulder pattern on pink wings; head naked of feathers, head skin pale green to golden buff at pairing; eyes ruby red or scarlet; adult only pink bird likely to be seen within its range in U.S.; spatulate bill distinguishes it from tall long-legged flamingo and scarlet ibis; immature has head feathers, a largely white bird but bill distinctive *03*.

Reproduction: Extirpated; does not breed in Illinois. Spoonbills arrive on breeding grounds approx. 1 mo. before pairing; pair formation may be delayed up to 1 mo. or more because of below normal temperatures. No evidence to suggest birds keep the same mates year after year; courtship includes innate forms of communal display termed 'up-flights' and 'sky-gazing,' see *07*, which vary with intensity according to stage of cycle *07*. Male defends a wide territory around the nest site; brings nest material to the female who constructs the nest. Only the male undertakes defensive displays *07*. Copulation takes place on the nest. Eggs are laid at the rate of 1 every other day; av. clutch size 2.7 eggs/nest *07*. Incubation period lasts 23-24 d; both sexes incubate; 1 brood; av. young produced annually 1.8 Fla., 2.1 Tx. *07*. Eggs: 3 (2-5); oval to long-oval; shell thick, roughly granulated; dirty white and evenly distributed spots or blotches in various shades of brown; markings occasionally conc. at larger end *08*. Hatchlings are fat, flabby, have enormous abdomens, and soft ducklike bills. Their skin is salmon pink; scantily covered wtih short white down *06*. Young leave nest 35-42 d. after hatching but does not perfect flight until 49-56 d *03*.

Behavior: The roseate spoonbill is a resident in the U.S. but wanderings do occur throughout its range; particularly after the breeding season *03,07*. Spoonbills are colonial; have ritualized display; are territorial *07*. A territory is secured by the male; may decrease in size as nesting begins; defensive displays only undertaken by male. See *07*. The roseate spoonbill is seasonally monogamous *07*. The spoonbills spatulate bill is adapted to taking minute animal life from mud and shallow water but limits their feeding to shallow waters *07*. Bill is supplied with sensitive nerve endings to help 'feel' for food *07*. Feeds during day and at night *06*.

Limiting factors: The roseate spoonbill was driven to the brink of extinction by man in the late 1800's. Between 1850 and 1890 was their most drastic period of decline. Spoonbills were killed to provide commercial traffic in its feathers for use in fans, millinery, and screens; also to provide meat to fishermen and indians. Its habitat was being destroyed by the encroachment of civilization and developments in oil exploration *07*. Limiting factors mentioned in the literature include: polluted waters, predators, disturbance by man and climatic factors. See *07*. Enemies include man, racoons, fish crows and great-tailed grackles *06,07*.

Population parameters: Major destruction of the U.S. breeding population of roseate spoonbills occurred between 1850 and 1890. Their population hit an all time low (20-25 nests) between 1890 and 1919 *07*. The National Audubon Society began protecting spoonbills in 1902. Recovery took place between 1920 and 1941 through protective laws, wardens, sanctuaries, and a change in the attitude of the public. In 1941, 5000 individuals were present. Recruitment from the Mexican population was also important *07*. Sexual maturity attained at 33-36 mos. *06,07*. Lifespan is probably between 8-10 yrs.; breeding occurs 5-7 of those years on average *07*. Average young produced/nest annually include: 1.8 Fla., 2.1 Tx. *07*. Nest mortality on average recorded 35% Fla., 22% Tx. *07*. Breeding potential classified as relatively low *07*. Population curves are affected by widespread climatic conditions or by hereditary rhythms. See *07*.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining undisturbed/undeveloped areas
  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.
  • Preserving sensitive species habitat
  • Performing special survey prior to prescription
  • Performing field survey prior to prescription
  • Controlling land use and human activities
  • Seasonal restriction of human use of habitats
  • Controlling pollution
  • Controlling pollution in aquatic habitats
  • Creating artificial islands or rafts
  • Maintaining streams
  • Developing/maintaining lakes and ponds
  • Creating/maintaining islands within permanent impoundments
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Restoration of wetlands (return flooded or drained areas to previous wetland conditions)
  • Developing/maintaining riparian habitat
  • Prohibiting hunting
  • Controlling undesirable vertebrate species (feral dogs, etc.)
  • Providing protection from predators
  • Developing/maintaining water holes, ponds, potholes, etc.
  • Restricting human disturbance during migration, breeding, and nesting
  • Maintaining undisturbed resting areas for migrating birds
  • Developing islands for waterfowl

Adverse:

  • Recreational development
  • Channelization
  • Navigational improvements such as channelization and locks and dams
  • Dredging
  • Controlling aquatic plants
  • Draining wetlands
  • Applying pesticide on agricultural land
  • Cutting and deforestation
  • Clearcutting forests
  • Application of pesticides

Comments on management practices:
The roseate spoonbill must have continual protection of its breeding, feeding, and concentration areas if it is to survive; also southern populations (Mexico & S. Amer.) Should be protected to insure recruitment opportunities *07*. This species should be protected from man, raccoons, and its other enemies *07*.

 


REFERENCES

0. MALMBORG, P.L. 1986. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, IL. 61820. (217)333-6846.

1. BOHLEN, H. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER., VOL. IX. 156 P.

2. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1984. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. 6TH EDITION. ALLEN PRESS, INC. LAWRENCE KS. 877 PP.

3. TERRES, J. 1980. AUDUBON SOCIETY: ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. ALFRED KNOPF, NEW YORK. 1109 P.

4. U.S. FISH WILDLIFE SERVICE. 1983. CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS. TITLE 50. WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES. CHAPTER 1. PP. 11-18. 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPECIAL PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTER. GENERAL SERVICES ADMIN. OCTOBER 1.

5. ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH. 61. WILDLIFE. ART. II. PAR. 2.2. REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES 1979. WEST PUBL. CO., ST. PAUL, MN. 123 PP.

7. ALLEN, R.P. 1942. THE ROSEATE SPOONBILL. NAT. AUDUBON SOC. RES. REPT. NO. 2.

8. HARRISON, H.H. 1975. A FIELD GUIDE TO BIRD'S NESTS. HOUGHTON-MIFFLIN CO., BOSTON. 257 P.

 


 

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