One of the great things about travelling in the south is the crazy creatures you get to see: armadillos, possums, swallow-tailed kites, things like that. But one of the craziest I’ve seen is the roseate spoonbill.
On first glance, a roseate spoonbill looks like one of those gag animals taxidermists put together for a joke, like the jackalope. In this case, it’s a flamingo with a spatula stuck on its face. Is this creature possible? The answer is yes, and it’s no joke. The roseate spoonbill is a real bird, just like all the other herons you see in your local lakes and rivers. It’s just a bird with a difference.
The colour alone sets the rosie apart from the other birds on the waterfront: a blush of pink, deepening to red here and there, even a bit of orange on the tail. All that colour convinces some people they’ve seen a flamingo when it flies by. But the two are completely different creatures. However, they do have something in common: they extract colour from the tiny shrimp they eat, giving them that rosy hue.
But it’s the crazy bill that attracts most of the attention. And as with most creatures, it’s a device designed to make them a living in the best way available. A flat bill is a perfect tool for straining tiny critters out of the water at the edge of a pond or stream. The spoonbill sweeps it back and forth in the water, stirring up the little creatures and then snapping it shut to gulp down whatever it finds.
I came across this fellow at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm on my Baby Boomer Florida Road Trip. The park is full of interesting creatures, but as a longtime birder, I was most impressed with the big flock of water birds that inhabit the place. And I was especially grateful to find this colourful fellow roosting just above my head as I strolled down the boardwalk.
Travel is all about discovery. Sometimes it’s a bit of history you discover, or a new kind of food. And now and then, it’s a creature that makes you realize nature has a sense of humour too.
I was a guest of VISIT FLORIDA and its partners, including the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, on this trip. I stayed at the new and comfortable TRYP Hotel, close to St. Augustine’s historic downtown district