Species Spotlight: Roseate Spoonbill!

By Shannah Cumberbatch

Pair of Roseate Spoonbills perched at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are known for their variety of pink lotus and water lilies. However, if you’ve visited in recent months then you may have seen something else pink. This park is the site of the first ever bioblitz held in 1996. What’s a bioblitz you ask? It’s a survey of all living things in a given area to help identify the diversity. A bioblitz will often last a few hours to a few days (signs of life can also be recorded during a bioblitz like bones, egg shells, empty nests, and more!).

Roseate Spoonbill wading in the Kenilworth marsh

In addition to the large diversity of animals at the park, over 150 birds have been identified. Birders will “flock” to the boardwalk in the morning during the migratory seasons (spring and fall) to see what species are present. The most popular sighting this year has been a pair of roseate spoonbills, Platalea ajaja. Like flamingos, roseate spoonbills get their pink coloring from their diet. They have a spoon-shaped bill unlike that of the great blue heron commonly seen at the park. The light pink color of this pair of roseate spoonbills leads many birders to speculate that these are juveniles since the adults are brighter pink in color, more reminiscent of the bright pink seen in flamingos. Roseate spoonbills have a range that spans across many southern states, where the weather is more tropical. 

White Egret and Roseate Spoonbills looking over Kenilworth wetlands

These birds are traveling further north and have been spotted in parts of Virginia in recent years. As time goes on, we may see more tropical birds passing through the gardens and adjacent green spaces. Birders speculate that as temperatures continue to rise we may see a shift in migratory flight patterns as individuals fly further north in search of reliable food sources. While not common, we have enjoyed the presence of these birds.

Be sure to make your way to the boardwalk on your next visit and see if you can spot our pink friends among the egrets and green herons in the marsh. Bring a pair of binoculars as they can be hard to see from the boardwalk.


Leave a Reply