Spoonbill, Roseate

Platalea ajaja 

Wings pink, with red on shoulders; tail orange; neck and body white; head naked and gray; immature are nearly all white, including head, with pinkish tinged wings.  Flies with neck extended.  Wingspan of about 4 feet, 30 to 34 inches tall, and can weigh up to 4 pounds.








Extreme southern United States south through Central Argentina


Shallow waters, bays with mangrove trees, marshes, mud flats, and coastal island bushes

Life Expectancy

Up to 10 years

Sexual Maturity

Approximately 3 years of age


In the wild, they eat crayfish, shrimp, mollusks, slugs, aquatic insects, and fish. In the Zoo, they are fed Bird of Prey diet mixed with flamingo pellets and smelt.


IUCN - Least Concern


Roseate spoonbills are highly social birds that interact with other water waders such as herons, storks, and sacred ibises. Nest is a solid cup of sticks and twigs built in bushes or treetops 5 to 15 feet above the ground. The female lays 1-4 brown-spotted and white eggs, which take 23 days to hatch. Both the male and female incubate the eggs. At birth, the chicks have bills that are tube-shaped. About 9 days later, the bill begins to take on the shape of a spoon. At 5 to 6 weeks, young leave the nest.


The Roseate Spoonbill uses its bill to locate food by touching it. The bill is kept slightly open and swished from side to side seining the water for prey. Once the desired food is detected inside the beak, it closes rapidly. No other North American bird has this odd, yet extremely useful, beak adaptation.

Special Interests

The Roseate Spoonbill is large enough that if it completely outstretched its neck, and heightened the bill upward, it could touch the nose of an average sized man. Ibises are an ancient group of birds, the fossil record of which dates back 60 million years. Spoonbills diverged from the ibises, however fossils are few. In this Family, Threskiornithidae, there are 31 species found in southern North America, South America, southern Europe and Asia, Africa, and Australia.


The species name, ajaja, is a variation of the Brazilian name for this bird, which is based on a Greek word for “sacred bird.” This name was awarded to this family of birds because it includes the ibis, which was considered sacred. “Roseate” refers to the bright pink plumage found on it. The name spoonbill obviously refers to the shape of the beak.


In 1869, an ornithologist wrote, ”It is much to be regretted that so many of the most beautiful birds should be confined … to the southern extremity of our country.” Over the next 30 years or so, the spoonbill was lucky to survive at all in this country. By 1939, there were less than 40 of these birds left in Florida. They had been hunted for their feathers, which were used in women’s hats. In 1960, laws were enacted to protect them, and their numbers began to increase. Currently, the Roseate Spoonbill is not an endangered species.

Jacksonville Zoo History

According to our records, this species’ debuted in our collection with the opening of Wild Florida (March 2001).


Emerald Forest Aviary