Spotlight on Spoonbills

spoonbill on a branch

By Callie Summerlin

In Port Arthur, when we think of pink, we think of the Roseate Spoonbill. Look around the shoreline, marshes and occasionally in your office parking lot.

This recently happened to us –  and you might just spot a beautiful flock of roseate spoonbills.

Bird lovers, painters and nature enthusiasts alike have wondered after the mysterious looking bird with the spoon shaped bill – gorgeous from afar, up close a little bizarre. Spoonbills are unique, not only in their look but also in their habitat. Their brightly-colored plumage seems to pop out at you against the backdrop of dulled muddy waters, green grass and grey skies. If you search the Instagram hashtag “green on pink,” you’ll see that we are not the only ones fascinated by this rich color combination (can you sense the painter coming out in me?)

When they traverse the shallow shoreline, their heads list side to side as they look for their next meal of plants and delicious “fresh” seafood. It’s where they get their nutrition, and where they get their pink.

First, the shrimp, crabs and other crustaceans feast on algae. Then, the carotenoid-rich algae gets transferred to the bird upon consumption, coloring its otherwise white feathers a rich, rosy pink.

If you look closely, you’ll notice the younger spoonbills appear less colorful. As they age and consume more crustaceans, their feathers become more pigmented, and you will begin to detect reds and other unique yellow and green color patterns.

Their spoon shaped bill gives them a decided advantage over other waders, as the spoon allows them to sift through the mud to find and scoop up crustaceans otherwise ignored or overlooked by the competition.

The wading spoonbill can be found all along the Gulf Coast, in Florida, Louisiana and Texas and even down to the tip of Argentina. We are especially fond of them in Port Arthur. While some will winter in Texas, they are mostly with us during late Spring and warmer months.

The next time you run across a flock of spoonbills in Port Arthur, I encourage you to join the locals by stopping, wondering after and photographing the unique siting.

Post your spoonbill photo and use the hashtag #loveportarthurtx to be featured on our Instagram.