July 2014 Bird Photo of the Month

Landing gear © Jennifer Lanam
Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

As this Roseate Spoonbill’s landing gear is extended and about to touch down, all its marvelous feather-pattern markings are visible…the intense scarlet upper wing and tail, the body plumage brighter pink, while the upper breast, neck, and back are white, and with yellow shoulder patch. Only slightly visible are the recurved scarlet feathers on the upper breast just below the neck. The red legs and eye coloring are still intensely red as in breeding season; however, the unfeathered, pale-green head has faded and lacks the defining black headband (seen here as pale gray). Orange markings beneath the eye that are more intense during breeding (January-April) are now paler.

How difficult it is to take a photo like this, at this exact moment of extended wings, in such focus, patiently being positioned in the right spot, sunlight sufficient, observing carefully the bird’s pattern of behavior and catching it within the frame. Photographer Jennifer Lanam was aided by her Canon T3i camera, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 100, 55-250mm @ 250 mm lens. She took it in May following the breeding season at the TM Goodman Waterfowl Management Area northwest of Fellsmere. Roseate Spoonbills have discovered an island adjacent to the north section of the parking lot, where their eggs and young in nests within dense shrubs, remain undisturbed and safe. Primary predators (raccoons, humans) are deterred by surrounding alligator-infested waters.

Shallow pools attract wading Spoonbills to feed, swinging their heads back and forth, its flattened spoon-shaped bill slightly open and ready to snap shut when small sensors contact prey: mainly fishes and aquatic invertebrates. Very gregarious, the Spoonbills nest, feed and roost together in our wetland habitats. How wonderful Florida wetlands are for observing such uniquely beautiful birds!

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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