Kenya Birds

African Spoonbill


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African Spoonbill

Photograph(s) Copyright ©P&H HARRIS

Platalea alba

Other Pics: African Spoonbill

Other Names

    French Spatule d'Afrique   German Afrikanischer Löffler   Spanish Espátula Africana   Swedish Afrikansk skedstork   Dutch Afrikaanse Lepelaar   Italian Spatola africana

World: In Africa widespread S of 17° North. Mostly absent from the SW and from the arid regions of Somalia. Distribution includes the lowlands of Madagascar

Kenya: Widespread on inland waters throughout most of the country. Mostly absent from the arid NE and the coastal regions. This distribution is similar to that of the Sacred Ibis. Regularly breed near Kisumu and Garsen.

This is a very distinctive and common waterbird frequently found in association with ibises. Its broad-tipped bill has a sensitive inner surface which is used to sense prey (fish, frogs, snails and other aquatic animals). It feeds in shallow water, which it wades through slowly, sweeping its bill back and forth in a scything motion. Prey is trapped between the broad mandibles (as in the photo above, right) and tossed into the back of the throat.

Spoonbills aren't born with the distinctive bill of the adult. At birth the beak is short and looks like any other species. It gradually lengthens during development achieving the spoon shape shortly before fledging. Until this point the young birds more closely resemble the ibises to which the species is closely related.

The only similar species is the Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) which is a occasional wanderer into Kenya, but it lacks the bare red facial skin and red legs of its African relative.

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