If it’s a bird, it’s pink and it spends a lot of time in the water, does that make it a Flamingo? Not necessarily.
Three of the most beautiful and bold birds in the Zoo’s aviary are our Scarlet Ibises and our Roseate Spoonbill. They do have a lot in common with Flamingos: all three are classified as Ciconiiformes.
Ciconiiformes are the order that includes waterbirds with long necks, long legs and long beaks. The Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills and all of the Flamingo species also share pink feathers and a very social lifestyle.
Our Roseate Spoonbill is 21 years old. This bird is “The Boss” of the aviary. When she wants something, all the other birds clear out of the way and let her by. She is not aggressive—just in charge! Roseate Spoonbills can be found in the wild in Central and South America and on the Gulf Coast of the United States.
The Scarlet Ibis lives a very similar lifestyle to the Spoonbill. Ours are 14-year-old brothers. They are found in the wild in South America.
Both species live in large groups in marshes and eat fish, insects, crustaceans and algae. The pigment from the food is what gives them their pink color!
When they first hatch, the chicks are more white and gray in color. As they grow up and molt, they lose the old feathers and grow new, pink feathers.
Spoonbills have a very unique bill that they move through the water. When they sense a fish, they close their beak and use it like a spoon to scoop up the food.
The Ibis beaks are thinner, pointed at the end and very sensitive. As the birds move through the water, probing the mud and grass, they sense their prey and use the sharp tip of their beaks to grab it.
These birds live in an endangered habitat. Wetlands and marshes are disappearing all over the world. They also often are at risk caused by various types of pollution from garbage to oil spills. By recycling and not littering, we can help all of the animals that call this precious habitat home.
Next time you visit the Zoo, don’t forget to stop by the aviary and see all of our birds! Make sure to look for our pink friends, the Roseate Spoonbill and Scarlet Ibis.
Remember: if they aren’t walking through the pond, look up! They also love to fly up and perch in the trees.
–Lori Warner, Zoo Keeper