Platalea alba - The African Spoonbill

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.

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

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.


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


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


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

In South Africa, they can be spotted at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary (less than an hour from Johannesburg and about 80 minutes from Pretoria), Bartholomeus Klip Renosterveld Reserve outside Cape Town, and the False Bay Ecology Park in the Cape Flats.


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


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.


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


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.


3 to 5 eggs are incubated for 29 days.

Life Expectancy

15 years in the wild, 17 years in captivity.


Chicks and eggs are predated by House Crow.


Birdlife Int.; Biodiversity Explorer

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Where to see African Spoonbill in their natural habitat?

Want to see african spoonbill in their natural habitat? In South Africa, the african spoonbill can be seen in these reserves and parks...

Conservation Status
African Spoonbill
Kruger Park's Big 6 Birds
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