Ok, not really. However, I have heard the roseate spoonbill mistakenly called a flamingo by excited visitors before. That flash of pink can certainly take your mind to the long legged, blushing bird. A quick view of the beak can clear that up quickly though. A roseate spoonbill has a, well, a “spoon” shaped bill that appears nothing like the larger, taller, hook-shaped billed flamingo. So, while never say never (we do have occasional sightings of all sorts of fauna not normally found in this area), that pink feathered avian spotted is almost certainly the Roseate Spoonbill.
It is one of six species of spoonbills in the world and the only one found in the Americas. Roseate spoonbills get their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink. Another fun fact - as humans, we are all too familiar with hair loss, as we get older. Roseate spoonbills, it turns out, are familiar with balding too, but instead of losing hair they lose feathers from the top of their head as they get older.
From March through October, roseate spoonbills prefer the bays, marshes and estuaries along the Gulf Coast. Occasionally they will travel inland through the eastern third of Texas. In winter, most roseate spoonbills migrate to Central and South America. Today, more than 4,000 breeding pairs frequent the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas and there are an estimated 120,000 individuals in our hemisphere. The population appears to have stabilized and may be growing.
Spots to Try
While most of the roseate spoonbills I have seen were from a boat while out fishing in the bays and flats, you can spot them from land. Rockport has many areas for birding, but finding a roseate spoonbill from land can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Try Goose Island State Park, or take a drive down Lamar Beach road and sometimes they are seen in Little Bay. Another land-based spot is the Cove Harbor Bird Sanctuary, or the pond located at the south corner of Traylor and Fulton Beach Road. Keep your eyes open when driving – and if you see a flash of pink, it’s most likely not a flamingo, but the lovely roseate spoonbill.
(Photography provided by John Martell. Please stop by and check out his phenomenal gallery of work at 302 S Austin St. Rockport, TX 78382.)