African Spoonbill

A long legged wading bird easily identified by it's spoon-shaped bill

South Africa BirdlifeThe African Spoonbill {Platalea alba}

The African Spoonbill is a long legged wading bird. Its body is mostly white, except for its legs, face and uniquely spoon-shaped bill which are red.

The male and female of this species are alike in appearance. They are born with short beaks that gradually develop into the characteristic spoon-like shapes bills they are named after.

The African Spoonbill is a shy and alert bird, usually silent, barring a loud grunt when startled or alerted to danger. This bird travels by flight extending its neck and legs while flapping its wings steadily in the air. The Spoonbill feeds by fishing in shallow water by swinging its open bill from side to side, which acts as a hooked tool to seize or clutch its food.

Quick Facts

Size

Height: 90 cm.
Wingspan: 120 to 135 cm.

Habitat

The African Spoonbill usually resides by shallow inland waters. Habitat includes river banks, lake shores, marshes, plains, savannas and swamps.

Distribution

The African Spoonbill is found in several countries in the southern part of Africa including Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

Diet

They feed on fish and aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans or shellfish, insects, larvae, and molluscs.

Socialisation

The African Spoonbill is a shy and alert bird, usually found singly, but can also be encountered in pairs or in groups. They are monogamous birds although the male may attempt to mate with more than one partner during the breeding season.

Communication

African Spoonbill is a silent bird except when it is alarmed at which time it lets out a distinctive groan.

Reproduction

The African Spoonbill usually breeds in communities from the end of March through to September. The female lays three to five eggs during the months of April and May. The eggs are laid in nests fashioned out of sticks and reeds in a tree, always near water, but nests are also established amongst swamp reeds and marsh plants, rocks and cliffs. The inside of the nest is usually lined with plant matter and leaves.

The egg is incubated for up to 29 days by both parents. Once hatched, both parents care for the chicks for up to thirty days after which the young birds are ready to leave the nest. Four weeks later they are able to fly.

Incubation

3 to 5 eggs are incubated for 29 days.

Life Expectancy

15 years in the wild, 17 years in captivity.

Predators

Chicks and eggs are predated by House Crow.

References

Birdlife Int.; Biodiversity Explorer

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African Spoonbill
Conservation Status

  • Least Concern

Did you know?

Young birds are born without the 'spoon' and more closely resemble ibises until their bill grows.

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