Royal Spoonbills are found throughout much of Australia where there is suitable habitat. They are absent from the drier inland areas and are rare in southern Western Australia. They are sometimes seen in the company of our other species of spoonbill, the Yellow-billed Spoonbill.
Their preferred habitat includes shallow waters, both coastal and inland, estuaries, edges of lakes, dams and wetlands, tidal mudflats and irrigated pastures. Their nest is a shallow platform of sticks, often over water and often in association with other waterbirds such as cormorants. During breeding the adults have a conspicuous plume of white feathers on the back of the head.
The photo above was taken in a walk through aviary at the Adelaide Zoo, South Australia.
Yesterday I wrote about my love of Yellow Billed Spoonbills. They are truly wonderful birds and certainly have a special place in my birding life.
I also delight in seeing their cousins the Royal Spoonbill with their distinctively coloured bills. Both species are to be found in my home district here in Murray Bridge, though not in large numbers – usually singles through to a half dozen or so.
Both species of Spoonbills are widespread throughout northern, eastern and southern Australia where suitable habitat exists. Both are present in SW Western Australia, though the Yellow Billed Spoonbill is far more common there than the Royal. Their preferred habitats include wetlands, swamps, lakes, shallow waters, estuarine waters, dams and irrigated areas. Both species feed by moving steadily through shallow water, swishing the bill sideways to and fro searching for food.
For a great deal more information about their feeding and breeding habits go to the Birds in Backyards site here. This site also has a distribution map. More information about the Yellow Billed Spoonbill, including a distribution map, can be found here.
I must admit that the spoonbills are amongst my favourite birds. Every time I see a spoonbill it gives me great pleasure. In fact, this species was in part responsible for me becoming a birder in the first place.
Back in October 1977 I took my family camping to Chambers Gorge in the Flinders Ranges in outback South Australia. This spectacular gorge through the rugged, dry mountains was a delightful place to spend a few days camping with the family. We went for several walks through the gorge. This gorge usually has a few waterholes but the creek only flows for a few hours after heavy rain.
I was amazed at the bird life around the waterholes. I had no idea at the time that many species of water birds inhabit such normally dry areas. Two Yellow Billed Spoonbills were present and they provided us with much interest over the days we spent there. It was the first time I really took a great deal of notice of the bird life of an area. Fortunately I had taken my binoculars with me, and I think I must have also had with me a simple, abridged paperback version of Cayley’s “What Bird is That?” It was the first of many field guides I have bought over the years since.
For more information about Yellow Billed Spoonbills, including a distribution map, click here.Ã‚Â
I have only recently visited St Kilda and Barker Inlet north of Adelaide for the first time, but already it is becoming a favourite birding spot of mine. Access to the area is very easy being just a few kilometers off the main highway heading north from Adelaide (the Port Wakefield road). There is a large car parking area, a large lawned picnic area, an interesting Adventure Playground (for the ankle biters – teens might even like it), a fast food outlet, boat ramp and a well kept clean public toilet block.
At low tide the tidal mudflats stretch for many kilometres along the coast. On top of the rock wall protecting the boat channel out to deeper water is an excellent walking path. This enables one to walk far out from the beach, perhaps nearly a kilometre. This allows one to get close to the birds feeding on the mudflats.
On my few visits I have observed many Black Winged Stilts (see photo above), Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers, Australian Pelicans, White Ibis, Great and Little Egrets, Black Swans and Royal Spoonbills. On my visits I have seen, far out from the shore, what looked like thousands of Grey Teal. I also recorded several Chestnut-Breasted Shelducks.
An added bonus for the birder at St Kilda is the Mangrove Boardwalk nearby. I have written about this here. Of course, my visits have been in early spring. I dare say, as the weeks progress, many migratory waders will arrive here for the summer months.
Updated Nov 2013.