• The Florida panther's steely gaze - NPS/RALPH ARWOOD

    Big Cypress

    National Preserve Florida

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • 2014 Zone 4 Closure

    Beginning at 12:01 am Monday, April 7, 2013, the Zone 4 airboat access within Big Cypress National Preserve will be closed due to low water conditions. More »

  • Turner River Closure

    Turner River is closed due to low water conditions. It is advised that visitors consider paddling Halfway Creek as an alternative. More »

  • Campground Closure

    Beginning January 27, through August 28, Burns Lake Campground will be closed to camping. It will still be accessible for day use and backcountry access, however. More »

  • Interstate 75 Mile Marker 63 Closure

    Beginning summer of 2013, the rest area and backcountry access at Mile Marker 63 will be closed due to construction. More »

  • Portion of Florida National Scenic Trail Closed

    Florida National Scenic Trail as well as its side trails north of Interstate 75 are closed due to the Orange Blossom Fire. More »

Roseate Spoonbill

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Roseate Spoonbills
 

Where can I see one?
Look above your head, they could be flying in their normal diagonal line in flocks with outstretched head and neck and wings beating slow and long. Spoonbills nest in dense red and black mangrove areas, generally on isolated islands of Florida Bay, but can be seen feeding in coastal marshes and wetland prairies. Due to conservation efforts, population numbers have rebounded since the early 1900s, when their pink flight feathers were used in ladies fans and hats. Southern Florida and Eastern Texas are the northern-most range of these wading birds, but most of the populations reside in Central and South America.

Behavior
Carefully watch these wading birds feed, as they wave their spoon-shaped bill from side to side, probing and straining the shallow water to find a tasty meal. Spoonbills depend on sensitive never endings to close the strainer when potential food items bump into the bird's spoon-shaped bill. Their diet consists of small fish, shell fish, aquatic insects, shrimp, some plant material and amphipods in both fresh and salt waters.

Most spoonbills do not begin courting and breeding until their third year. Displays and behavior include dancing and bill clapping. Next, the breeding male presents sticks and twigs that the female will use to build a strong cup-shaped nest. Both parents will incubate the 1-3 white, brown-streaked eggs, until the chicks hatch, and each parent will continue to feed the chicks even after the eight week-old chicks leave the nest.

What do they look like?
Look out for a long-legged wading bird with pale-pink feathers, but don't confuse this Big Cypress resident with the greater flamingo in the Florida Keys. Spoonbills get their names from the spatulate shaped bill that strains shallow water like a straining spoon. The roseate spoonbill stands 28-34 inches tall, and can stretch its wings 47-51 inches. Both eyes and legs are red, and feathers of the neck, chest and upper back are white. The pale pink body is complimented by bright orange tail feathers and a pale-gray, flattened, spoon-shaped bill. The immature bird's feathers are paler colors and each chick has a feathered head unlike their parents.

Did You Know?

Airboat traveling through wet prairies.

Airboats are one of the approved ways to access remote areas of Big Cypress National Preserve. Remember, all off-road vehicle access requires a valid permit, and visitors operating ORVs need to know the legal areas they can operate.