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Eurasian spoonbill

eurasian spoonbill, eurasian spoonbill michael kors
The Eurasian spoonbill or common spoonbill Platalea leucorodia is a wading bird of the ibis and spoonbill family Threskiornithidae The genus name Platalea is from Latin and means "broad", referring to the distinctive shape of the bill, and leucorodia is from Ancient Greek leukerodios "spoonbill", itself derived from leukos, "white" and erodios "heron"


  • 1 Distribution
  • 2 Description
  • 3 Taxonomy
  • 4 Habitat
  • 5 Diet
  • 6 Behaviour
  • 7 Conservation
  • 8 Gallery
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links


This is a Palearctic species, breeding from the United Kingdom and Spain in the west through to Japan, and also in North Africa In Europe, only the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Hungary and Greece have sizeable populations Most birds migrate to the tropics in winter, with European breeders mainly going to Africa, but a few remaining in mild winter areas of western Europe south to the United Kingdom It was extirpated from the United Kingdom but sporadic breeding attempts in the early 21st century culminated with the formation of a colony at Holkham in Norfolk in 2010 In 2011, 8 breeding pairs nested, successfully fledging 14 young

eurasian spoonbill


This species is almost unmistakable in most of its range The breeding bird is all white except for its dark legs, black bill with a yellow tip, and a yellow breast patch like a pelican It has a crest in the breeding season Non-breeders lack the crest and breast patch, and immature birds have a pale bill and black tips to the primary flight feathers Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched The Eurasian spoonbill differs from the African spoonbill with which in overlaps in winter, in that the latter species has a red face and legs, and no crest

They are mostly silent Even at their breeding colonies the main sounds are bill snapping, occasional deep grunting and occasional trumpeting noises


Juvenile in Holes Bay, Dorset, England

A study of mitochondrial DNA of the spoonbills found that the Eurasian spoonbill is sister taxon to a clade containing the royal and black-faced spoonbills

A Eurasian spoonbill in Bharatpur Bird sanctuary, Rajasthan,IndiaEgg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden, Germany

The Eurasian spoonbill has three subspecies:

  • P l leucorodia – Linnaeus, 1758:nominate, occupies all the range except as below
  • P l balsaci – Naurois & Roux, 1974:found on the islands off the Banc d'Arguin, Mauritania
  • P l archeri – Neumann, 1928:found on the coasts of the Red Sea and Somalia

Birds in Asia are sometimes separated as P l major


Eurasian spoonbills show a preference for extensive shallow, wetlands with muddy, clay or fine sandy beds They may inhabit any type of marsh, river, lake, flooded area and mangrove swamp, whether fresh, brackish or saline, but especially those with islands for nesting or dense emergent vegetation eg reedbeds and scattered trees or srubs especially willow Salix spp, oak Quercus spp or poplar Populus spp Eurasian spoonbills may also frequent sheltered marine habitats during the winter such as deltas, estuaries, tidal creeks and coastal lagoons


The diet consists of aquatic insects, mollusks, newts, crustaceans, worms, leeches, frogs, tadpoles and small fish up to 10–15 cm 39–59 in long It may also take algae or small fragments of aquatic plants although these are possibly ingested accidentally with animal matter


More northerly breeding populations are fully migratory but may only migrate short distances while other, more southerly populations are resident and nomadic or partially migratory In the Palearctic, the species breeds in spring eg from April but in tropical parts of its range it times breeding to coincide with rainfall Breeding is normally in single species colonies or in small single species groups amidst mixed-species colonies of other waterbirds such as herons, egrets and cormorants Outside the breeding season Eurasian spoonbills forage singly or in small flocks of up to 100 individuals Migration is usually conducted in flocks of up to 100 individuals Most activity takes place during the morning and evening although in coastal areas it foraging is governed by tidal rhythms, they often roost communally in roosts which are up to 15 km 93 mi away from the feeding areas

The nest is a platform of sticks and vegetation which is either constructed on the ground on islands in lakes and rivers or in dense stands of reeds, bushes, mangroves or deciduous trees up to 5 m 16 ft above the ground Within colonies neighbouring nests are usually quite close together, no more than 1 or 2 m 33 or 66 ft apart Breeding colonies are normally sited within 10–15 km 62–93 mi of feeding areas, often much less although the species may also feed up to 35–40 km 22–25 mi away


Threats to the Eurasian spoonbill include habitat destruction by drainage and degradation by pollution, It is especially adversely affected by the disappearance of reed swamps In Greece, over-fishing and disturbance have caused the population to decline, and human exploitation of eggs and nestlings for food has threatened the species in the past As stated above it has recently started to breed in the United Kingdom from where it was extirpated in the 17th century



  1. ^ a b c d e f BirdLife International 2012 "Platalea leucorodia" IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 20132 International Union for Conservation of Nature Retrieved 26 November 2013 
  2. ^ Jobling, James A 2010 The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names London:Christopher Helm pp 157, 309 ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4 
  3. ^ Overdijk, O 2002 "Lepelaar Platalea leucorodia" Atlas van de Nederlandse Broedvogels 1998–2000Nederlandse Fauna 5 in Dutch Leiden:Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum Naturalis, KNNV Uitgeverij & European Invertebrate Survey-Nederland p 88 ISBN 90-5011-161-0 
  4. ^ "Breeding spoonbills return to Holkham" 12 September 2011 Archived from the original on 5 June 2014 
  5. ^ Chesser, R Terry; Yeung, Carol KL; Yao, Cheng-Te; Tians, Xiu-Hua; Li, Shou-Hsien 2010 "Molecular phylogeny of the spoonbills Aves:Threskiornithidae based on mitochondrial DNA" Zootaxa 2603:53–60 ISSN 1175-5326 
  6. ^ Gill, F; Donsker, D, eds 2017 "IOC World Bird List v 72" doi:1014344/IOCML72 Retrieved 10 July 2017 
  7. ^ Unwin, Brian 27 August 2000 "Spoonbills return to breed in the UK after 300 years" The Independent London 

External links

  • BirdLife species factsheet for Platalea leucorodia
  • "Platalea leucorodia" Avibase 
  • "Eurasian spoonbill media" Internet Bird Collection 
  • Eurasian spoonbill photo gallery at VIREO Drexel University
  • Interactive range map of Platalea leucorodia at IUCN Red List maps
  • Audio recordings of Eurasian spoonbill on Xeno-canto

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