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image for Audubon paints the Roseate Spoonbill in Florida Keys and Key West

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1832


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John Audubon observes the Roseate Spoonbill

 

map of Florida Keys and Key West

 

April and May, 1832 - Audubon sees Spoonbills in Florida Keys. Audubon had observed Spoonbills earlier during the period of time he lived in Louisiana and on explorations elsewhere.


 

Audubon painting of Roseate Spoonbill from Birds of America 

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Roseate Spoonbill

 In Audubon's Ornithological Biography he writes about his observations on the Roseate Spoonbill. A small part of his observations are below:

"This beautiful and singular bird, although a constant resident in the southern extremities of the peninsula of Florida, seldom extends its journey in an eastern direction beyond the State of North Carolina. Indeed it is an extremely rare occurrence there, and even in South Carolina, my friend John Bachman informs me that he has observed only three individuals in the course of twenty years. . . . Although rather abundant on some parts of the coast of Florida, I have found it more so along the Bay of Mexico, particularly in Galveston Bay in Texas, where as well as on the Florida Keys, it breeds in flocks. The Spoonbill is so sensible to cold, that those which spend the winter on the Keys, near Cape Sable in Florida, rarely leave those parts for the neighbourhood of St. Augustine before the first days of March. . ."

 

"The Roseate Spoonbill is found for the most part along marshy and muddy borders of estuaries, the mouths of rivers, pounds or sea islands or keys partially overgrown with bushes, . . . where they can reside and breed in perfect security in the midst of an abundance of food. . . . At the approach of the breeding season, these small flocks collect to form great bodies, as in the manner of the Ibises, and resort to their former places of residence, to which they regularly return, like herons."

 

". . . To procure their food, the Spoonbills first generally alight near the water, into which they then wade up to their tibia, and immerse their bills in the water or soft mud, sometimes with the head and even whole neck beneath the surface. . . . They move their partially opened mandibles laterally to and fro with a considerable degree of elegance, munching their fry, insects, or small shell-fish, which they secure, before swallowing them. . . . To all those keys in the Floridas in which ponds have been dug for the making of salt, they usually repair in the evening for the purpose of feeding; but the shallow inlets in the great salt marshes of our southern coasts are their favourite places to resort"

 

"The feathers of the wings and tail of the Roseate Spoonbill are manufactured into fans by the Indians and Negroes of Florida; and at St. Augustine these ornaments form in some degree a regular article of trade. Their flesh is oily and poor eating. "

 

In addition to fans , the bird's plumes were sought by the millinery trade. By the late 1800's, Ladies "hats" were the cause for a reduction in the spoonbill population. Spoonbills were slaughtered together with egrets and the population of plume birds declined.

With the creation of the Everglades National Park in 1947 this trend was reversed and Spoonbills began returning to established nesting sites.

 

PRESENTLY - Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaja ajaja)

Bird lovers usually will still find spoonbills at Sandy Key, ten miles from Flamingo on the shore of the Everglade Park, and some twenty miles from Marathon in the Keys during November through March. Toward evening, several hundred spoonbills return to Sandy Key to roost in the island's trees. They also nest on Tern Key, and Joe Key, plus several other islands.

In addition to islands in Florida Bay, spoonbills can still be found along the Southern and Northeastern coasts of Florida and even along the coast of Texas into Mexico.

 

 

 


Additional information about the roseate spoonbill may be found by following the link below to the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas. The Atlas, a collaborative effort of Audubon of Florida, the Florida Ornithological Society, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission provides information of general status, habitat, and status of  breeding species in Florida.  

 

 http://wildflorida.org/bba/ROSP.htm

 

Additional information about the roseate spoonbill may be found by following this link to eNature.com

 

 
 
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