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Bird Watching for the Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill Photo by Inside Track Almanac

The Treasure Coast of Florida, renowned for its pristine beaches, diverse ecosystems, and abundant wildlife, serves as a habitat for a myriad of fascinating species, including the distinctive Roseate Spoonbill. These elegant birds, with their pink plumage and spoon-shaped bills, are among the most captivating residents of the region's wetlands and marshes.

Easily distinguished by their stunning pink feathers, ranging from delicate hues to vibrant rose shades, Roseate Spoonbills are characterized by their unique spatula-shaped bills, setting them apart from other wading birds.

These majestic birds predominantly inhabit shallow coastal waters, marshes, mangrove swamps, and estuaries along the Treasure Coast, where they can often be observed wading through the waters, using their peculiar bills to sweep for food.

During the breeding season, typically spanning from late winter to early summer, Roseate Spoonbills gather in large colonies, known as rookeries, to nest and rear their offspring. These rookeries, often nestled within dense mangrove forests or on secluded islands, offer protection from predators.

Despite their preference for warm climates found in the southern states and parts of Central and South America, Roseate Spoonbills have surprisingly been sighted as far north as Maine and even Minnesota in recent years.

Protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act and designated as a threatened species in Florida, Roseate Spoonbills are recognized as "a priority bird" and "climate threatened" by the National Audubon Society.

One notable rookery is located near the border of Indian River and Brevard counties, where conservation efforts are in place to safeguard and study the species. The Stick Marsh Rookery was granted Critical Wildlife Area status by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in November 2016, ensuring protective measures around its vital islands.

Photos by Treasure Coast Almanac

Visit our Birding Guide! to learn More about Birds of The Treasure Coast and print your own bird-watching guide & checklist.

About the Stick Marsh Critical Wildlife Area

Sources: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Total Area: .92 acres uplands, 1.55 acres water

Closure Dates: Islands are closed year-round. The in-water buffer and the channel between the islands are closed to entry from January 1 – July 31.

Stick Marsh CWA includes two tree islands in the St. John’s Water Management Area’s Stick Marsh/Farm 13 Reservoir in Fellsmere, west of Vero Beach. Hundreds of state-imperiled roseate spoonbills and tricolored herons join snowy and great egrets to nest from January to July each year. At sunset, thousands of wading birds fly into the islands to roost.

Stick Marsh CWA is adjacent to T.M. Goodwin Wildlife Management Area, a site along the Great Florida Birding Trail. It is easily viewed from shore.

Roseate Spoonbills are often visible from the parking lot of the Stick Marsh.

The islands are closed to entry year-round, and the in-water buffer is closed seasonally to protect nesting birds during the breeding season.


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