Spoonbill

Scientific name: Platalea leucorodia

Did you know: The spoonbill, a remarkable bird, hadn’t bred in Britain for over 300 years until 2010 when a small colony was rediscovered on the north Norfolk coast!

What Do Spoonbills Look Like? (how to identify them)

Spoonbills are distinguished waterbirds, noticeable for their striking white feathers and long, broad bills with a unique black colour. These tall birds are characterised by their long necks and legs, which they stretch out during flight. 

During the breeding season, adults are adorned with a hint of yellow on their chest and bill tip, adding a touch of elegance to their appearance. With a wingspan of 120-135 cm and weighing between 1,300-2,000g, these birds are a magnificent sight, especially in flight.

Differences Between Male And Female Spoonbills

Male and female spoonbills are similar in appearance, with both showcasing the same white plumage and distinctive bill. However, during the breeding season, males may display more pronounced yellow colouring and a more noticeable crest, which are subtle yet fascinating distinctions.

What Do Spoonbills Eat?

Spoonbills have a diet primarily consisting of aquatic invertebrates and small fish. They feed in a unique manner, wading through shallow waters and sweeping their spatulate bills side to side, detecting and snapping up any small aquatic creatures that touch the inside of their bill.

Where Do Spoonbills Live? (inc. migration info)

Spoonbills favour wetland habitats, both marine and intertidal. In the UK, breeding pairs are very rare, with only 0-4 pairs recorded. However, their presence increases during winter, with around 81 birds staying in Western Europe. Most migrate south for winter, but some choose to remain, adapting to the milder European climates.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Spoonbills)

Spoonbills are not particularly vocal, but they do produce a range of sounds, especially during the breeding season. Their calls include low grunts and soft honking noises, adding to the ambient sounds of their wetland homes.

Fun Spoonbill Facts (kid friendly)

  • Spoonbills use their unique bills, filled with vibration sensors, to catch their prey.
  • They can sleep standing up, often tucking their heads under a wing!
  • Spoonbill chicks are born with straight bills, which gradually develop into the spoon shape as they grow.
  • These birds can be partly nocturnal, especially when foraging.
  • Spoonbills were absent from Britain for over 300 years until 2010.
  • They’re a part of the same bird family as ibises.
  • Their bill’s shape helps them breathe while submerged in water.
  • Spoonbills prefer fresh water but can be found in saltwater environments too.
  • Despite their size, spoonbills are expert flyers, navigating long migratory journeys.

Spoonbill Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Spoonbill

Diet: Mainly aquatic invertebrates and small fish.
Bird Family: Herons, storks and ibises
Length: 80-90cm
Wingspan: 120-135cm
Weight: 1.3-2kg
Scientific Name: Platalea leucorodia

The Spoonbill Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December