Florida: Birds Pretty in Pink!
November 6, 2014 12 Comments
Florida has two large pink birds that you might see when visiting – spoonbills and flamingos. Both get their pretty pink color from carotenoids in the shrimp and algae they eat. The more carotenoids they eat, the pinker they get! Flamingos are pink all the way through – even their skin, blood, and egg yolks are tinged pink!
Roseate spoonbills are named for their spatulate-shaped bills – they are the pink bird you will see in the wild. Spoonbills feed by touch, and swing their bills back and forth through the water to find food. Their sensitive bills instantly snap shut on small fish, insects, and crustaceans. They can be found throughout the state, especially near coastal mangroves in central and southern Florida. Places we’ve seen spoonbills include Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (in the mangroves along Black Point Drive); Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge; nesting in the wild at both the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Gatorland (in Kissimmee); and various other places including the Viera Wetlands, Orlando Wetlands, and the Sarasota/Tampa area.
Flamingos are usually seen in formal exhibits, but a wild group of 147 birds was discovered living in western Palm Beach County in May 2014. It is believed they migrated from their native breeding range in the Caribbean and Mexico. Long ago there had been a small breeding population deep in the Everglades, so scientists hope the birds get reestablished in the state. A flamingo feeds by holding its bristle-lined bill upside down as a scoop to sieve out brine shrimp, algae, and other aquatic organisms from the water. Flamingos are an iconic symbol of Florida, and can be seen at many zoos, wildlife conservation centers, and theme parks (in summer they can be seen on their mud-cup nests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom).
Update March 2015: The wild flamingos have returned to the Palm Beach County Storm Water Treatment Area 2 west of Miami! Field trips are hosted by the Audubon Society of the Everglades (http://www.auduboneverglades.org/).