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Eurasian Spoonbill
Dr Anand and Geeta Pereira

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" shivanayak@gmail.com.

Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira - Archives

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Comments on this article
Goldwin Fernandes, MangaloreSaturday, September 15, 2012
Wonderful article. Very informative. The pictures helps a lot in understanding.
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Bernadine Frank, Mangalore/MelbourneFriday, September 14, 2012
Very interesting article.Beautiful pictures.Thank you for sharing dear Anand & Geetha.
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Prateesh Nachaiah, Kodagu/bangaloreWednesday, September 12, 2012

It's nice n very informative. The photos r gr8!! Keep up the good work
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Lyra and Richard Pinto, Sakleshpur, MangaloreSunday, September 09, 2012
Hi geetha nd Anand, Very educaative article and very impressive pictures. One can keep on gazing at them. We appreciate your efforts. So many of us gain a lot of knowledge from your articles.My son would have loved to go thr' it. He too is a lover of nature. May God bless you. Kindly enrich us with more and more information.
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Fr William Menezes, Bishop's House,Mangalore.Friday, September 07, 2012
Dear Dr Anand and Geetha,
Wonderful,informative article and superb pictures.Congratulations.All the best.
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Dr.Anand and Geeta n Pereira, Sakleshpur/KadriThursday, September 06, 2012
We appreciate the time you have taken to write words of encouragement. Daijiworld readers have always supported and encouraged us right from the very beginning. Grateful thanks to one and all.

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LAVEENA, MANGALOREThursday, September 06, 2012
anand uncle very nice article with good photoraphs.... everyone at my home liked it
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LAVEENA, MANGALOREThursday, September 06, 2012
Anand uncle very nice article with good photoraphs.... everyone at my home liked it
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Ashok Frank, Mangalore/ TorontoThursday, September 06, 2012
Good one Anand and Geeta. Love to read your brilliant articles.
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TWINKLE, MUMBAIWednesday, September 05, 2012
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VENKATRAMAN SHENOY, MANGALOREWednesday, September 05, 2012
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VASUDEV SHENOY, MANGALOREWednesday, September 05, 2012
I have two young children (Twins) who are studying in Primary school. After opening the archives of dr.Anand and Geeth, my children have been sensitized to nature and ask us Parents how they can contribute towards Nature conservation. Hats off to you both and daiji for such educative information alongwith pictures.
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Geetha Arockiam, Texas. U.S.ATuesday, September 04, 2012
Article in Daiji was lovely
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Rico, UdupiTuesday, September 04, 2012
Indeed it is wonderful to learn about birds and animals as I too am an animal lover,we need more articles like this to bring awareness, Great work, well done!
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GULDEV RAJ, JAMMUTuesday, September 04, 2012
Thanks for nice article on spoon bill. two year ago these birds had been seen on Gharana Wetland, on indo-Pak border near Jammu.
-Guldev Raj
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Waterjet Engineers, ChikmagalurMonday, September 03, 2012
We are very happy to read your articles
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VARUN, ChikmagalurMonday, September 03, 2012
For student like me it is excellent article to learn
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Sunil baptist, ChikmagalurMonday, September 03, 2012
Informative article with excellent photos
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Ivan Frank, MangaloreMonday, September 03, 2012
An enlightening ,educative and useful information on birds with different kinds of beaks or bill. Amazing to know that there are so many different varieties of beaks and it seems as if they are custom made. Thank you Dr. Anand and Gheetha for sharing this information to us.
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Shivashankar, karkalaMonday, September 03, 2012
Keep writing such inspiring and informative articles.

Best wishes.
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John Pereira, NewArk. U.S.AMonday, September 03, 2012
Well written article with nice photographs.
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John Pereira, NewArk. U.S.AMonday, September 03, 2012
Well written article with nice photographs.
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Mayur, KodaguMonday, September 03, 2012
Lovely Photos. See these birds very much in and around Coorg.
Thanks Daiji for educating us.
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rakesh, sakleshpurSunday, September 02, 2012
Nice work Anand ..I don't understand how you dedicate so much time on these research work ..anyways I know its your passion ..
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Joe Britto, Nakre/Bangalore Sunday, September 02, 2012
Dear Dr Anand & Dr Geetha ,
Thank you !
Another amazing article which makes us ponder and wonder at the creators plans .
We really fail to notice how each bird has a peculiar type of beak . The Great creator has indeed even clothed these lovely birds free of charge with natural habitat ,free food & a very special nest to rest as well !
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Naveen Frank, Mangalore / SharjahSunday, September 02, 2012
Dear Anand and Geetha,

A beautifully written article with equally magnificent pictures of the water birds. So simplified that it makes informative reading even for a school kid. There are so many minute details that we take for granted and you have now helped us in being educated on yet another marvel of nature. Continue to inspire us by sharing more of your articles on Mother Nature.

Naveen Frank
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NIHAL, MANGALORESunday, September 02, 2012
Excellent pics dad.All the best in the future.
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