Sep 2, 2012
Birds are gifted with an amazing variety of beaks. The beak is shaped according to what a bird eats and to a certain extent is influenced by their habitat. For beginners (School children and amateur bird lovers) paying attention to bill shapes is one of the characteristic features to identify birds. Bird beaks are used for a variety of functions like eating, preening, defense, gathering nesting material, attacking, courting, and feeding young and building nests. The shape and size of the bill in each species is specific for the type of food it gathers. The size and shape of the beak can vary across species. In some species, the size and proportions of the beak vary between males and females. This allows the birds to exploit food from different ecological zones. As one goes through the pictures, the colour of the beak within the same species too varies depending on the age of the bird. Juveniles have pink bills compared to adults.
This brief article on spoonbills provides a glimpse of the bird that breeds in Karnataka State and other parts of India. The pictures will help one learn to identify the birds both by their flight silhouette as well as the type of beak. We recently spent two weeks exploring the wild, especially bird life. Spoonbills are large wading birds characterized by their extremely flattened bills that are widened in the distal parts. All have large flat spatulate bills. In all there are six species of spoonbills and are distributed over much of the world. The six species are very similar in shape and behavior, mainly differing in size, colour of legs, bills and other bare parts, and in distribution.
Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia major) : This is the most widespread species across Europe and India and is also commonly referred to as the common spoonbill. The distinctively spatulate bill is a clear identification. Both the male and female are similar in overall appearance but the male is somewhat larger than the female, with longer bill and longer legs. Juveniles resemble the non breeding adults, but have pinkish bills and black tips to the wing feathers.
Black faced spoonbill: found in Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan
African spoonbill : Breeds in Africa and Madagascar
Royal spoonbill : South east Australia, New Zealand, Indonessia
Yellow billed spoonbill: South east Australia,
Roseate spoonbill :South America, the Caribbean, Texas, lousiana
BILL :The spoonbill bill is rather unusual. It is highly specialized. It has a long spoon shaped bill; wide and flattened at the tip which enables it to dabble in mud or water like a duck.
RANGE : The Breeding range extends from Europe to northwest Africa, the Red sea, India and China. Wintering areas include many parts of Europe and Asia including many parts of Karnataka State.
HABITAT: Lakes, ponds, river deltas, canals, marshes with overgrown shrubbery. Although spoonbills commonly prefer fresh water they are found in both environments; Salt and fresh. Migratory Spoonbills congregate seasonally in large numbers at the same sites year after year. Hence, these sites are critical to their conservation and need to be protected from human destruction in terms of wetland draining.
DIET: crustaceans, frog’s Small fish, aquatic insects, Algae, shrimp, and other invertebrates. Foraging activity generally peaks around morning and evening.
BREEDING : Spoonbills are monogamous. Generally breed in colonies, along with other species. During the breeding season, adults develop a crest of pointed and drooping plumes, as well as patches of yellow on the upper breast and the tip of the bill. The nest is made up of reeds or twigs. Both parents take up the responsibility of building the nest. The same nest is used by the pair for a number of years. The female lays the eggs in May or June. A clutch consists of three to five eggs, smooth and oval and covered with spots that disappear during incubation. Both partners incubate for 24 to 25 days and both tend the young. Chicks hatch one at a time and not at the same time.
The young birds leave the nest when they are six to eight weeks old. The newly hatched young are blind and need parental care. The bills of the young birds are short and straight and get the spoonbill shape as they mature. The primary reason for brood failure appears not to be predation but starvation.
FLIGHT :The spoon bill flies fairly rapidly, with neck stretched straight out in front, now and then gliding through the air on motionless wings. In flight the neck and legs are out-stretched but held below the level of the body.
THREATS: The species is threatened by loss of wetland habitat. Over fishing and erection of dams in sensitive breeding sites has resulted in population decline.
CONSERVATION : The Eurasian spoonbill is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which aims to conserve migratory species throughout their range. An action plan for the Eurasian spoonbill was published by the International Spoonbill Working Group in 2008, setting out measures to increase the number of breeding pairs in populations that are currently under threat. This includes habitat rehabilitation and protection, control of predators, protection of Eurasian spoonbills from persecution, and further research into the migratory movements of each subspecies.
CONCLUSION: We do hope every nature lover will take a keen interest in learning about birds and inculcate ways and means of protecting them. Our idea to post photographs with an appropriate write up ; is to promote, educate and inspire the young to have a greater interest in the Planet’s living riches. A few pictures will act as a reminder on the wonders of our Natural world.
Two educative sites which are extremely valuable for conservation include
http://www.conservationindia.org and http://www.indianaturewatch.net
Conservation of intact ecosystems will greatly enhance the survival of the Eurasian spoonbill. Conservation issues should be addressed not only by the scientific world , but should be supported by individual households and corporates.
Kindly note :
Bird watchers convention and S A Hussain Memorial day on 7th Oct at Bhuvanendra College, karkala. All bird lovers can attend . Kindly contact "Shiva shankar" firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira - Archives
- Birds...Through the Lens of a Seven-year-old
- Pioneering Innovative, Energy Efficient Sprinkler Systems
- Birds of Prey - How Many Can You Identify?
- Spectacled Indian Cobra
- Conservation of Forests - a Guide to Carbon Credits
- The Value of Forests
- The World of Pelicans
- Impact of Climate Change on Wildlife
- The Winged Wonders...
- Rare Leopard Cat
- Mushrooms and Health...
- Bird Biodiversity
- A Walk Through the Wilderness
- Coffee Forests - a Gateway to Wild Life
- Bird Paradise of Western Ghats
- Amazing Slender Loris..
- Coffee - The Amazing Elixir for Young and Old
- Butterflies - The Flying Jewels of the Western Ghats
- The Fascinating World of Mushrooms
- Rare Aquatic Bird Species of Western Ghats
- Human - Elephant Conflict