We went for walk Saturday morning and I found a pink feather in the wrack line at Bathtub Reef Beach.
The mystery feather had a likely source: Roseate Spoonbill.
We spotted this spoonbill overhead just across the street from Bathtub, along the boardwalk that passes through mangroves to small pier looking out over Sailfish Flats and the Indian River Lagoon.
Wading bird in a tree? Well, they do roost at night and it was first thing in the morning.
The bird seemed just as surprised to see us.
Great view of the bill that gives the spoonbill its name.
Cool fact from All About Birds:
Roseate Spoonbill chicks don’t have a spoon-shaped bill immediately after hatching. When they are 9 days old the bill starts to flatten, by 16 days it starts to look a bit more spoonlike, and by 39 days it is nearly full size.
In keeping with their overall color scheme, their eyes are reddish pink too.
Pink bird in morning sun.
The color comes from the foods they eat as they sweep their bills from side to side and sift for invertebrates, especially crustaceans like shrimp whose shells containing carotenoids that turn the spoonbill’s feathers pink.
Carotenoids, also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic color to pumpkins, carrots, corn, tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, and daffodils.
I have a spoonbill on my Florida license plate, like the sample above. It’s a specialty plate that donates to the Everglades Trust. The money is used for “conservation and protection of the natural resources and abatement of water pollution in the Everglades.”
More here: Florida Specialty Plate Everglades River of Grass.