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The Spoonbill

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by K. L. Kamat
Page Last Updated: November 01, 2016

Spoonbill is a summer migrant to Ranganatittu Bird Sanctuary. It is a close relative of herons, storks, ibises, flamingos and scientifically known as Platalea ieucorodia. It is world wide is distribution and is common in Australia, Europe, England and North America. It is a fairly large bird having snow white body and dark beak and legs. Roseate spoonbill has rosy pink plumage which is confined to southern US, Argentina and Chile. Both species have their beaks resembling a spoon or spatula and hence their common name. They live in society in wooded marshes, generally not far from the mouths of rivers, and on the seashore. Their long legs help to wade and stalk fish, frogs, tiny reptiles and insects. Their equally long necks make useful periscope above marsh grass. Spoon like beak is employed in the elaborate mud-straining process. They feed late into the morning and rest till afternoon. During this period they stay together and move about lethargically without feeding. At times they stand immobile in the water or foregather on a rock as found at Ranganatittu. Most of them go to sleep standing on one leg twisting their pliant necks right round to bring the bill to rest in the pile of feathers covering their shoulders and backs. At times, two birds stand side-by-side each resting its bill on the back of its neighbor.

In the late afternoon, they take to wings, circling in quick-beating wings to gain height and soaring in spectacular formations. They fly so high in sky that they can be seen only as tiny white specks. During their flight, their fully stretched wings, translit by sun, stand out with condescend glow against blue sky. They are evenly inter-spaced in flight and float in circles and keep on changing their formations. Sensing danger they give out alarm call, a soft sneezing sound, resembling suppressed sneeze. In normal times, they crouch, puff, flare out their crest and come out with a clearly audible and forbidding sound which is an admixture of a hiss and a growl.

In the breeding season they break up into pairs and intermix with other birds in a mixed heronry. They construct a nest by employing dry twigs and line with soft aquatic plants. When some careless intruder approaches the nest too closely, the male challenges the trespasser and snaps its bill together, a display that is suffice to send the intruder packing. After a short courtship the female deposits three to five eggs. The nestlings do not resemble their parents. Their bills are not long and black but soft and pink, tenderly swollen in the middle and slightly hooked at the tip like the bill of a pigeon's squab. Its little wings lack flight feathers and there is no tail at the end of its tubby body. Their parents frequently collect food and grab the hatchling's beak crosswise in their bill and shovel the food down with their tongues. In a week or so they grow into replica of their parents.

It is fun to observe this unusual bird at Ranganatittu.


See Also:

 


The Birds of India
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