Pretty in Pink – Roseate Spoonbills at Orlando Wetlands

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It’s almost spring and that means it’s time for the Roseate Spoonbills to nest! If you want to see beautiful pink birds, Orlando Wetlands is the place to be. Remember that awesome new boardwalk that I wrote about in the last post? Well, one part of it gives you really nice access to a cluster of wading bird nests. There are Great Egrets, Wood Storks, and my favorites – the spoonies!!

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbills in a synchronized mating dance

When you first see a spoonbill from a distance, you see a gorgeous flash of pink. As you get closer, you see absence of feathers on the face, a brilliant red eye, a striking black band, patches of green, and of course, that spoon-shaped bill. This bird is perfectly designed to pull its prey from shallow waters.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill head shot

In Florida, spoonbills nest in trees, typically over water. The water protects the nests from land predators like raccoons. When I visited Orlando Wetlands in mid-February, the birds were in full mating mode. They landed in the tops of palm trees to find sticks to bring back to their nests.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

A couple of birds were already on eggs. Here one bird incubates while her mate stands guard. He spent the morning on the hunt for fresh sticks for the nursery. When he found a good one, he was rewarded with a low grunting noise from his partner.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill nest

When there are nests nearby, there are plenty of opportunities for flight shots. The light was very changeable that day, with long periods of heavy cloud cover, along with brief visits from Señor Sol. The combination of the new mirrorless cameras coupled with software like Topaz DeNoise really re-defines flight photography. I cranked up the ISO, exposed for the bird, and tried to contain my inner squeal.

Roseate Spoonbill
Flight shot of a Roseate Spoonbill in breeding plumage

The competition for the empty stumps cracked me up. Here I was grateful for the low light, as I could aim straight into the (absence of) sun and catch the wing-flap as this bird landed on a stump. I missed the indignant departure of the stump’s previous occupant!

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill landing on stump

I look forward to returning in good light to enjoy the progression of nesting season. Won’t it be fun to see the tiny heads and minuscule spoons sticking out over the edges of the nest?

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill – see the heart? just in time for Valentine’s week!

Want to learn more about nature photography at Orlando Wetlands?

Check out my Orlando Wetlands page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!

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