Oldest identified Roseate Spoonbill discovered nesting in Florida

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The oldest Roseate Spoonbill ever recorded was discovered inside Everglades Nationwide Park in Florida Bay this spring.

Jerry Lorenz, director of analysis for Audubon Florida, banded the hen in December 2003, that means that it’s now greater than 18 years outdated. The earlier report for longevity within the wild for the species was 16 years. Conservation photographer Mac Stone, on project with Audubon, photographed the banded hen in early April 2022 whereas it tended to its offspring in a nest.

“Spoonbills are our pink canary within the coal mine,” Lorenz says. “We depend on them as an indicator species to inform us when and the way ecological situations are altering all through the Everglades. This hen is an unimaginable instance of simply that – shifting round Florida Bay for the higher a part of twenty years and serving to us inform the story of the place the Everglades is hurting and therapeutic.”

Right here’s a closeup of the spoonbill and its leg bands. Photograph by Mac Stone

Kelly Cox, director of Everglades coverage for Audubon Florida, provides: “This spoonbill has seen so much in its virtually twenty years on Florida Bay — algae blooms, hypersalinity, and sea grass die-offs. However, it has additionally seen constructive outcomes from Everglades restoration, together with elevated freshwater to Florida Bay. This spoonbill tells us that regardless of the hardships, nature is resilient and after we give her an opportunity, she will bounce again.”

Audubon Florida’s Everglades Science Middle conducts weekly surveys of Roseate Spoonbill colonies in Florida Bay throughout nesting season to get nesting and common inhabitants knowledge. Two of the colonies have been monitored for 30 years.

In 2003, Audubon scientists started making use of leg bands to chicks in nests in Florida Bay and Tampa Bay on the Richard T. Paul Alafia Financial institution Bird Sanctuary. In 2013, employees additionally started banding birds hatching from nests at St. Augustine Alligator Farm. In whole, Audubon has banded about 3,000 chicks. Banding spoonbills — an indicator species for Everglades ecosystem well being — has led to a higher understanding of dispersal charges and behavioral constructions after nesting season in Florida Bay is over. 

The group continues to band younger spoonbills, largely at St. Augustine. “We nonetheless band spoonbills opportunistically in Florida Bay, however not many,” says Erika Zambello, Audubon Florida’s communications director. “We now use a mixture of digicam traps and trackers on particular person spoonbills.”

Spoonbill knowledge from Audubon Florida is a part of the 2020 South Florida Wading Report (pages 17-19).

Combing via 1,500 photographs

“I’ve photographed banded spoonbills in Florida Bay for over a decade making an attempt to hint the origins of corroded letters and numbers for Audubon,” Stone says. “After I downloaded the cardboard from my digicam and observed {that a} banded hen got here to the nest to feed its chicks, I knew I had one thing particular. I fastidiously combed over 1,500 pictures and located solely two moments the place mild and shadow hit the band good. It was a reminder how highly effective science and artwork might be when pursued collectively.”

The decline and resurgence of Roseate Spoonbills parallels the conservation motion in Florida. These vivid pink birds with lengthy legs and an unusually formed invoice have lengthy mesmerized those that encounter them, and their stunning plumes have been particularly sought-after throughout a time when girls’s style included hats adorned with feathers and even whole birds. Audubon Florida led the cost to guard wading birds from looking, and at the moment the group continues to be a premier scientific useful resource for Roseate Spoonbills and the Everglades as an entire.

Learn Mac Stone’s February 2013 article about Roseate Spoonbills

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