Flying Spoonbills

Sarah Lardizabal

There is simply no substitute – and never will be – for observing wildlife out in the wild.  There are too many behaviors that you just won’t see unless you’re in the natural environment and experiencing things firsthand.  Its the lone downfall of captive collections.  You can’t witness an attack by a predator on its prey and you won’t see many species of birds ever take wing inside most institutions.   

I’ve come across this problem in a few instances where kids have flat out argued that flamingoes don’t fly.  They do, but I can see the disconnect.  When do kids ever get the chance to watch flamingoes fly?  In most cases they’re lucky to see a flock of the birds surround a shallow pond or pool in a zoological setting. 

While out on the Indian River Lagoon in Merritt Island today I had an opportunity to watch another pink bird make a graceful arc across the sky; a bird I’ve never seen in flight before.  I’m terribly conditioned to the presence of wood storks, great egrets, snowy egrets, and great blue herons that dot the landscape across the state so I almost didnt pay attention to the high flying target.  I think it was the odd pale color that first caught my attention and as I went looking for field marks I realized the bill on this bird was completely out of order for my usual observations on all the herons and storks. 

Low and behold, after three autumns on the lagoon, I’ve seen my first roseate spoonbill on the wing out in the wild.  I was pretty amazed by the sight, even more so than my constant excitement when we spot wild Atlantic bottlenose dolphins or clumsy manatees resting near the surface.  There is something awfully exhilirating about wildlife watching.  Its like an impromptu scavenger hunt; often full of experiences you’d never think to include on any to-find list.