Tickled Pink - Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

February 2019

With its bright feathers, red eyes, partly bald head and giant spoon-shaped bill, this unique bird is becoming a more common site along the Grand Strand throughout the spring and summer.

- Get their coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink. The more carotenoids they eat, the pinker they get.

- One of six species of spoonbills, but the only one found in the Americas and the only one that is pink.

- The collective noun for spoonbills is “bowl.”

- Social birds that nest and roost with other large wading birds like storks, herons, egrets, ibises and cormorants. They are found at least as far north as Huntington Beach State Park.

- Chicks’ beaks are straight; the spoon shape grows as the chick develops.

- Was very common in parts of the Southeast until the 1860s, when it was virtually eliminated as a side effect of being hunted for plumes to use in ladies’ hats and fans. This is ironic, as the feather color would fade rapidly once the bird was no longer eating the pigments that made it pink.