Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
Only the northern edge of the Roseate Spoonbill's range lies within the United States. This neotropical bird can be found in many areas around the Gulf of Mexico, and breeds in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Florida populations occur in the southern half of the state. Roseate Spoonbills are also found in Mexico, Central America, and South America, as well as across the West Indies and Greater Antilles.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here.
Coastal marshes, wetlands, and mangrove keys are the Roseate Spoonbills' preferred habitat. Away from the coast, the birds are found in a variety of areas, including ponds, marshes, and forested swamps. When feeding, they make use of either fresh or saltwater habitats. Nesting often occurs on islands or in small trees or shrubs surrounded by water.
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. The species also forages visually on land.
Depending on their location, Roseate Spoonbills may breed as early as December, or as late as May or June. Courtship often involves aggressive displays, but courting birds also sit close together, crossing or clasping bills. Once paired, the female builds a platform nest with materials supplied by the male, and lays her white, brown-streaked eggs. Both parents take turns incubating the clutch, which averages three eggs. The parents also share responsibility for feeding and brooding the young birds. Young can leave the nest by the sixth week, and are capable of flight by the eighth. Upon leaving the nest, juvenile birds flock together, but continue to be fed by the parents.
Some Roseate Spoonbill populations migrate. Inland populations often move toward the coast following the breeding season. The species may also disperse widely after breeding, based upon food, habitat, or environmental conditions. Immature birds are particularly prone to wander far from the breeding range. Texas birds may move south in the winter, while some Florida birds winter in Cuba. Much remains to be learned regarding this bird's migratory patterns.