African Spoonbill Platalea alba


African Spoonbill Platalea alba

Full Description


Colloquial/Common Names: Lepelaar (Afrikaans).

Taxonomy: Class: Aves; Order: Ciconiiformes; Family: Threskiornithidae.

Identification: White plumage all around with long pinkish-red legs and red face, forehead and bill. The bill is long, spatula-shaped and decurved, with the top part being light grey to dark with a fissured texture like cuttlefish bone. The legs and bill are black in immature birds.

Size: 75-90cm.

Distribution: Across all parts of South Africa, but largely absent in Lesotho.

Habitat: Found in all biomes, but particularly common in grasslands where they are found around wetlands such as dams, lakes and seasonal and permanent pans. Adapts well to man-made dams and sewage treatment dams.

Activity & Behaviour: Nomadic, following rainfall and suitable habitat. Spoonbills are gregarious and usually found in flocks of 3-30 birds. They are strongly associated with wetlands and rely on them for feeding.

Diet & Feeding: Spoonbills feed on aquatic invertebrates such as molluscs as well as small fish and probably tadpoles as well. They swing their heads from side to side in a wide arc with the bills slicing through the water, capturing any prey they come in contact with.

Reproduction: Females lay 2-4 eggs which hatch after an incubation period of 25-29 days. Females apparently sit on the eggs during the day and males take over at night. Juveniles leave the colony at around five weeks.

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

References and Recommended Further Reading:

  • Hockey, P. A. R., W. R. J. Dean & P. G. Ryan (Eds). 2005. Roberts – Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth edition. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.
  • Milstein, P. le S. 2010. Remarkable Birds of South Africa. Briza Publishers.
  • Sinclair, I., P. Hockey, & W. Tarboton. 2002. Sasol Birds of Southern Africa. Third edition. Struik Publishers.
  • Sinclair, I. & P. Ryan. 2009. Complete Photographic Field Guide – Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Nature.


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