Spot the large, rosy bird while hiking the wilds of Hillsborough County

It's that time of year! The temperature is cooler, the air is drier, and being outdoors feels lovely. It's the perfect season to hit the trails for the annual Hillsborough County Hiking Spree. While making your way through the County's parks and preserves, you may get lucky and catch sight of a big, pink bird. You cannot miss the roseate spoonbill. The bird stands about 2 feet, 6 inches tall and has a wingspan of up to 4 feet, 6 inches. It's this year's hiking spree mascot and is featured on limited-edition Hiking Spree patches, bandanas, and walking-stick medallions.

Pink birds in a blue sky
Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) are hard to overlook. Adults are pale pink with deep magenta on their shoulders and tail feathers. Their rosy color comes from the foods they eat, which are full of organic pigments called carotenoids. In contrast to their beautiful feathers, mature spoonbills have ruby red eyes and bald, featherless heads.

You are most likely to see roseate spoonbills in or near coastal marshes, bays, and mangroves. They often flock with egrets, herons, and ibises. They feed by wading through the water, sweeping their spoon-shaped bills back and forth to find food below the surface.

Roseate spoonbills were hunted for their plumes in the 18th and 19th centuries, almost driving them extinct. Their vibrant pink feathers were considered highly fashionable on women's hats. Though hunting is no longer a significant threat for the birds, the loss of food sources and habitat are. As a result, the roseate spoonbill is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State-designated Threatened species by Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Hiking Spree
The 2023-2024 Hiking Spree runs Nov. 1 through March 31, 2024. This year's Hiking Spree features new trails, new merchandise, and limited-edition rewards. Complete your spree, one hike at a time, and earn your own 2023-24 Hiking Spree Roseate Spoonbill medallion, patch, or bandana! Register and begin planning.

Photo Information: Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park is home to many roseate spoonbills. Photo provided by Jill A. Yelverton.
Posted: 11/13/2023, 5:37:41 PM