Profile Spoonbill     Literature page Spoonbill
[order] Ciconiiformes

[order] Ciconiiformes | [family] Threskiornithidae | [latin] Platalea leucorodia | [UK] Spoonbill | [FR] Spatule blanche | [DE] Löffler | [ES] Espátula de Eurasia | [IT] Spatola bianca | [NL] Lepelaar

Lepelaar determination

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Large, white, and rather graceful heron-like bird with long, broad, spatulate bill, long neck, and long legs. Wears yellowish nuchal spray and golden breast patch in breeding plumage. Sexes similar. Juvenile has black tips to primaries and pink bill, becoming dark during first winter. Combination of white plumage, long spoon-shaped bill, and neck extended in flight unmistakable. Usually seen on ground or in shallow water where feeds by characteristically sweeping tip of bill from side to side. Flies with slower and more measured wing-beats than Glossy Ibis, but not as slow as larger herons, often gliding for short distances; parties usually fly in single file.

Basically within warm climates, locally penetrating deep into temperate zone. Normally in coastal lowlands or alluvial river basins but breeds exceptionally to nearly 2000 m on Lake Sevan, Armenia. Highly specialized bill ties it while feeding strictly to shallow, usually extensive waters of fairly even depth with bottoms of mud, clay, or fine sand, preferably with gentle tidal changes or slow currents, or newly flooded, whether fresh, salt, or brackish. For breeding prefers dense reedbeds and similar masses of emergent plants, often with scattered shrubs or trees, such as willows and poplars, which used for nesting.

Platalea leucorodia is a widespread but patchily distributed breeder across much of
southern Europe, which holds just over 50% of its global population. Its European
breeding population is small (as few as 8,900 pairs), and underwent a large decline
between 1970-1990. Although the sizeable Russian population continued to decline
during 1990-2000, the species increased or was stable across most of the rest of Europe,
and was stable overall. Nevertheless, its population size renders it susceptible to the
risks affecting small populations, and consequently it is evaluated as Rare.
This bird has a wide distribution throughout the southern parts of Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula to India and China. It winters in the Mediterranean regions and in Sub-Saharan Africa. The population of the European Union is totalling 1200-1400 breeding pairs, which represents 14-25% of the total European population. The western populations have increased during the last decades, but the eastern populations, including the Greek population, have undergone a steady decline. Consequently, the total European population has probably declined by 30%. Wetland reclamation and pollution are the main reasons

Water insects: dragonflies, beetles, locusts and caddisflies, frogs and small fish. Sometimes algae, aquatic and other plant matter.
Usually feeds in small flocks by sweeping bill from side to side, sometimes runs after prey, partly nocturnal.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 58,000-59,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Spring breeder in North of range. In Indian Subcontinent depending on water conditions, African breeders before or during rains. Nest built on ground or mat of old reeds in dense reedbeds; in willow thickets close to water, and up to 5 m above ground. Occasionally in grass tussocks where no other vegetation. Colonial; nests mostly 1-2 m apart, but sometimes touching. Nest is a large pile of reeds, twigs, and grass stems, lined grass and leaves. Typically forms monospecifec colonies although in the Netherlands (Oostvaardersplassen) colonies have been formed with Little Egrets, nesting on the outer range of the Spoonbill colony.
3-4 eggs are laid, incubation 24-25 days. chicks have sparse white down. Sexual maturity 3-4 years old.

Migratory and dispersive. Such post-fledging dispersal as occurs (July-August) normally for relatively short distances. Main departures from European colonies August-September; few remaining October. Occasional Netherlands in mild winters, when a few fairly regularly south-west England and south Ireland. European breeding population winters in Mediterranean basin and northern tropical Africa. Early arrivals back in Netherlands and Azerbaijan in second half February, but most return to European colonies late March and April. Migration often diurnal, small parties or large flocks; usually in transverse line formation, or soaring and circling at considerable heights.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 120 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 135 cm
  4. size min.: 80 cm
  5. size max.: 93 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 24 days
  8. incubation max.: 25 days
  9. fledging min.: 45 days
  10. fledging max.: 50 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 3
  13. eggs max.: 5
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Lepelaar status Least Concern
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