African Spoonbill

Flamingo Plaza


In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Platalea alba
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Threskiornithidae
Genus: Platalea




Height: 36 inches 36 inches
Wingspan: 4-4.5 feet
Weight: 2.8-4.6 pounds 2.8-4.6 pounds
Maturity: 3 years 3 years

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Carnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Diurnal
Interactivity: Social
Sexual Dimorphism: No
Gestation: 25-29 days
Lifespan in the Wild: 15 years
Lifespan in Captivity:

Geographic Range

Africa, from Ethiopia to Kenya to South Africa as well as the lowlands of Madagasar


Status in the Wild: Least Concerned
Threats: Habitat Loss


There are six species that make up the spoonbill family. The name derives from the flat, spatula like bill, which the bird uses to feed. Sweeping its partly-opened bill from side to side, the spoonbill will snap its bill shut on small aquatic creatures. All spoonbills are long-legged wading birds.

Species Specifics

The African spoonbill's long legs and thin, pointed toes help it walk easily through the varying depths of water and mud in search of prey.They are recognized by their long spatulate bills, bare red face and legs, and white plumage. The bill is bluish gray with a fringe of red along the edge of the bill.

Physical Characteristics

African spoonbills have large, flat, spatulate bills and feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping the partially opened bill from side to side. Any touch by an aquatic animal will cause the bill to snap shut.Its long, bare legs are adapted to wade through its preferred habitat.



Large, shallow, inland waters such as lakes, marshes, flood plains, and reservoirs



Spoonbill diet consists of small fish and aquatic invertebrates

Ecological Web

Adult African spoonbills are not commonly preyed upon. Chicks and eggs are vulnerable to nest predators such as crows, vultures, snakes, and mammals.Spoonbills help control populations of invertebrates and small fish.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

It is diurnal, feeding on small fish and invertebrates and likely makes nomadic movements in response to local rainfall and habitat availability rather than seasonal migrations.


It nests colonially with other bird species., roosting in trees or reed beds, and rests along the shores of inland shallow waters, sometimes in large numbers of up to 1000.

Social Behavior

This shy and alert bird is usually found in small groups. It is generally silent with an occasional grunt if alarmed.

Reproductive Behavior

Mainly monogamous, nesting in colonies of 5-20, occasionally up to 200 pairs. Other water birds will frequently join them. Nests are solely built by the female, with nesting material carried in by the male. The nest is a flat, oval structure made of sticks, reeds, and twigs; sometimes lined with grass and leaves. The nest is typically placed on a partially submerged tree or bushes and reeds along the waters edge.It lays 3-5 eggs and is incubated by both parents. Chicks are fed by both parents; by regurgitation.


Chicks start wandering around the nest from 21 days old and leave the nest at 5 weeks.



Some areas are threatened by the draining of wetlands


Current Threats

Habitat Loss

Our Role

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

The inside of the spatula-shaped bill reacts to touch.

Chicks are born with a short bill, that gradually develops into its spoon-like shape by the time its 30 days old.

Swahili name: Domomwiko.

Follows animals that stir up water


Birdlife International


P.O. Box 5238

9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605