Roseate Spoonbills at Angostura – a first for our area

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja): Espátula rosada; Rosalöffler; Spatule rosée

Immature Roseate Spoonbill in flight at Angostura Dam; photo by John Beer

The Roseate Spoonbill is the only spoonbill species found in the New World. Like flamingoes, these spoonbills get their pink plumage from their food, mostly crustaceans. Though you may not immediately see the huge, spatula-like bill, which is immersed and sweeps the water in search of food, adult birds are unmistakable:

Adult Roseate Spoonbill at Río Coto, southern Pacific region; photo by John Beer

In our immediate area this species seems not to have been recorded until this year. These recent sightings have so far been at the Angostura Dam and are of two immature birds. The dam on the Río Reventazón is one of the few sites near Turrialba that offer suitable habitat for this fairly common lowland species. Recent changes to the shoreline seem to have caused a general increase in the sightings of shorebirds and other aquatic birds.

Immature roseate Spoonbill feeding with Great Egrets at Angostura; photo by John Beer

Curiously, young spoonbills don’t have a spoon-shaped bill at first. It flattens and develops gradually over the first weeks of life and takes about 40 days to reach full size. As the bird gets older it increasingly acquires its pink coloration but loses head feathers and becomes partly bald. I can certainly sympathise. The difference in plumage can be striking:

Adult and immature Roseate Spoonbills feeding at Ferry El Coto; photo by John Beer

Water levels at Angostura have now risen again, reducing the amount of shallow water needed for these and other waders, and the Roseate Spoonbills seem now to have departed. We look forward to their possible return to Turrialba.

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