St. Augustine Alligator farm towards the end of March, you can see them swoop in droves to court, nest and raise their young. The photographers are already there, anticipating the spoonbills' arrival while snapping happily at wood storks, egrets, and herons. Amid this ruckus, the gregarious spoonbills pair up and share parental responsibilities for two months, until the fledglings are ready to leave the nest and the sanctuary of the Alligator Farm. (The alligators at the
Keep an eye out for roseate spoonbills when visiting the GTM Research Reserve in warmer months. Its estuaries harbor the wide variety of small animals these birds consume. In addition to small crustaceans, spoonbills eat slugs, snails, small fish, and insects. They dine communally, and catch their meals by immersing their bills vertically while swishing them through the water. It's quite a sight to glimpse a group walking in unison back and forth in the water, heads swaying to and fro, snacking on what crosses their path. Their nostrils sit high up on their bills so they can breathe while foraging. If a small animal is within striking distance their pressure-sensitive bills alert them to the potential meal and snap it up. The water they wade through is often murky because the spoonbills intentionally agitate it to rouse their prey. They rely more on bill sensitivity than eyesight to score the next mouthful.
Colorful, sociable, and resilient, these wading birds are as striking as flamingos, and even droller. But they have retained one scrap of dignity that the flamingo lost. They haven't been made into lawn ornaments - yet.
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