Spoonbill, the common name of the wading birds of the family plataleidoe, characterized by a much depressed bill, very broad, and dilated at the end in the shape of a rounded spoon. In the genus platalca (Linn.) the bill is long, straight, thin, slightly bent downward at the tip, the mandibles in close opposition and the edges not lamellar; nostrils basal and in the lateral groove; wings long, second quill the longest; tail short; legs longer than in the typical waders, tibia bare for nearly one half; tarsi not much longer than middle toe, covered with small hexagonal scales; toes webbed at the base, the outer longer than the inner, the middle not pectinated, and the hind one only partly resting on the ground; claws short and obtuse. There are about a half dozen species, found in all quarters of the globe, migrating to warm climates at the approach of winter; they frequent marshy inlets of the sea, and the borders of lakes and rivers, wading about in search of fish fry, worms, frogs, and aquatic insects; they can swim and dive. The nest is made either on trees or among rushes in swampy places, and composed of coarse sticks; the eggs are two to four, whitish.
The roseate spoonbill (P. ajaja, Linn.) is about 30 in. long, and 4½ ft. in alar extent; the bill is 7 in. and covered with a soft skin; the head is of moderate size, bare, the skin yellowish green; the neck is long and slender, and the body compact and muscular. The prevailing color is rosy red, paler in front, and nearly white on the neck; lesser wing coverts, upper and lower tail coverts, and lower part of throat, bright carmine; tail feathers ochrey yellow; the young have the head feathered, the carmine tint wanting, and the tail rosy. It is found in the southern Atlantic and gulf states, and is very abundant in the breeding season on Indian river, Florida; it does not go above North Carolina, nor far from the sea. These birds are essentially nocturnal, though they often feed by day when the tide suits; they are fond of the company of herons; they fly with the neck and legs extended, and rise rapidly to a great height; they alight easily on trees, and can walk on the large branches. The breeding time in the Florida keys begins in February, the young being out of the nest by April 1; the nest is usually in the top of a mangrove, coarsely made; the eggs are commonly three, elongated, 2½ by 1½- in., white, sprinkled all over with bright rufous spots, forming* a ring near the large end; they breed and are commonly seen in flocks.
The flesh is oily and poor eating; the beautiful feathers of the wings are made into fans in Florida. The European spoonbill (P. leucorodia, Linn.) is about the same size, white with reddish yellow patch on breast, pale yellow naked space around eyes and throat, and a yellowish white, long occipital crest; it is rare in England, but common in Holland and S. Europe and all over Africa.
European Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia).