Royal Spoonbill

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Common Name: Royal Spoonbill
Scientific Name: Platalea regia

Size: 30 ¼ inches (77 cm)

Habitat: Australia & South-east Asia; found throughout eastern and northern mainland Australia from the Kimberley region of Western Australia across the Top End and through Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, to south-eastern South Australia. It is only a rare visitor to Tasmania and it is not found south-west of Broome, Western Australia through to the Spencer Gulf, South Australia or in central Australia. It is also found in New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and on some south-western Pacific islands. Found in shallow freshwater and saltwater wetlands, intertidal mud flats and wet grasslands. Both permanent and temporary inland waters are used when available in the arid zone. They will also use artificial wetlands such as sewage lagoons, salt fields, dams and reservoirs.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 25,000 - 100,000. Royal Spoonbills are not tolerant of disturbances, especially when breeding, and destruction of habitat by land-clearing, drainage, increased salinity or flooding and weed invasion are all detrimental to both feeding and breeding. However, it has benefited from artificial wetlands in some areas. In the Australian Northern Territory, the introduced Water Buffalo threaten freshwater wetland habitats by breaking down levees and allowing salt water to flow in.

Diet: Fish, shrimp, crabs and amphibians. It catches its prey by making a side-to-side movement with its bill.

Nesting: They form monogamous pairs for the duration of the breeding season and nest in colonies alongside many other water birds, including Yellow-billed Spoonbills, ibises, herons and cormorants. When they are breeding, long white plumes grow from the back of their heads and colored patches appear on the face. The nest is an open platform of sticks in a tree in which the female lays two or three eggs. The chicks hatch after 21 days. The birds are highly sensitive to disturbance in the breeding season. In Australia, whole colonies have been known to desert their eggs after a minor upset.

Cool Facts: They are also known as the Black-billed Spoonbill; in New Zealand they are called “kotuku ngutu papa” by the Maori.

Found in Songbird ReMix Shorebirds Volume I and Songbird ReMix Australia Volume III

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