The roseate spoonbill deserves this salute not only for its rare beauty, but also because, in the late 1800s, it was almost hunted to extinction. Why? You guessed it … to make ladies’ hats. Luckily, conservation measures have enabled the species to rebound, but it’s rarely sighted in this area, and I consider myself lucky when I see even a few.
I photographed this flock in Brunswick, Georgia, as they fed in a small, tidal creek just off the marsh. In addition to being uncommon, they’re wary, easily spooked birds, and always seem to feed and roost as far from humans as possible. And without sophisticated camera gear, they’re notoriously difficult to photograph. This group was in a large open area surrounded by an 8 ft. chain link fence, topped by a couple of strands of barbed wire. They seemed to instinctively know that I was coming only so close, and no farther.
Actually, I literally stumbled onto the spoonbills, as I stopped to photograph this group of wood storks. As usual, the spoonbills were out of sight, about 10 feet away, at the bottom of the creek bed.
Spoonbills are gregarious birds and are almost always in a flock of their own kind, or with other wading birds. They feed in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging their bills from side to side while steadily walking through the water. Their diet consists of frogs, insects, newts, small fish, and algae-eating crustaceans which give them their beautiful pink and red color.
With their distinctive coloring and unique bills, I think they’re one of the most striking birds in North America. Luckily, pink hats are no longer in fashion.