Last updates


Legal issues

Fr: Spatule blanche
All : Löffler
Esp : Espátula Común
Ital : Spatola bianca
Nd: Lepelaar
Sd: Skedstork


Jean Michel Fenerole
Photos d’Oiseaux

Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Jean-Claude Jamoulle
A la rencontre des Oiseaux

Nicole Bouglouan

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105

L’ENCYCLOPEDIE MONDIALE DES OISEAUX - Dr Christopher M. Perrins - BORDAS - ISBN: 2040185607

ENCYCLOPEDIE DES OISEAUX DE FRANCE ET D’EUROPE – de Peter Hayman et Rob Hume - Flammarion – ISBN : 2082009920

BIRDS OF THE GAMBIA AND SENEGAL by Clive Barlow and Tim Wacher – Helm Field guides – ISBN: 0713675497

BIRDS OF THE MIDDLE EAST by R.F. Porter, S. Christensen, P Schiermacker-Ansen C.Helm - ISBN: 0713670169

A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson. New Holland Publishers. ISBN: 9781780090498

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)


Home page

Summary cards


Eurasian Spoonbill
Platalea leucorodia

Pelecaniformes Order – Threskiornithidae Family

Length: 70-95 cm
Wingspan: 115-135 cm
Weight: 1130-1960 g

The Eurasian Spoonbill is usually seen in wetlands where they often forage in groups. The mutual preening is one of their main activities.

The adult male in breeding plumage has white body, wings, tail and head. However, during the breeding season, the head pattern becomes brighter with dark yellow collar at the neck base, and orange-yellow area around the base of the bill. Chin and throat are bare and bright orange. The elongated feathers on the rear crown form a conspicuous buffy-yellow crest.

The long, straight, ridged bill has spatulate tip. It is black with orange tip. The eyes are red. Legs and feet are black.



In non-breeding plumage, the bill is dull black with yellowish tip. The face is mostly white but slightly washed yellow. The orange skin of chin and throat is reduced. The yellow collar is duller and incomplete. The crest is absent.

Both sexes are similar, with female slightly smaller than male.
The immature is similar to adult in non-breeding plumage, but lores and bill are initially pinkish and the primaries have black tips.

We can find three subspecies:
P.l. leucorodia (here described) is found in S Spain, Holland and SE Europe, to C and E Asia, S to Persian Gulf, India and Sri Lanka. It winters in W and E Africa and SE China.
P.l. balsaci is smaller than nominate and has black bill. It often lacks the yellow neck base. It is found on islands off Mauritania coasts.
P.l. archeri is smaller than nominate too. It occurs on the coasts of Red Sea and Somalia.   

The Eurasian Spoonbill is usually silent, but during the breeding season, they perform bill-clattering and bill-snapping at nest, also used during confrontations.

The Eurasian Spoonbill frequents extensive wet areas such as flooded lands, rivers, marshes and large water bodies.
On the wintering areas, it also occurs in sheltered coastal habitats, tidal creeks, deltas, estuaries and coastal lagoons.
It nests on islands, sometimes off sea coast, but more often near lakes or rivers. It may sometimes nest in reedbeds with scattered trees and bushes, or in dense emergent vegetation.

See above in “subspecies”.

The Eurasian Spoonbill forages by walking slowly in shallow water with semi-open bill partially submerged. The preys are detected by touch.

The spoonbill moves head and bill from side to side into water, while the bill is rapidly and alternatively opened and closed. That allows catching of several small preys.

They often feed in small groups, with the birds walking close to each other, making the foraging more efficient.

The Eurasian Spoonbill feeds on aquatic insects, adults and larvae, and also numerous aquatic animals such as crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians and small fish. They may consume some plant matter, mainly algae.

The species can be partly nocturnal. They usually roost in trees, but sometimes at ground level too.
Apart from foraging and resting, they are often seen cleaning and preening their plumage.  

The spoonbills nest in fairly large monospecific colonies in trees and bushes, or on low vegetation or even on the ground on islands. They are usually near or over water.

They are monogamous and the pairs form at the colony. The male arrives first and establishes a small territory and defends it from rivals. It performs threat displays, wing-flapping, head-stretching, chases and “stretch-and-snap” displays.
But between the members of the pair, the displays also include bowing, presentation of nest-material to the female and “mutual-billing”.  

The Eurasian Spoonbill is migratory and winters further south for the nominate race of Palearctic.

The races “balsaci” and “archeri” are sedentary and dispersive. They travel usually in formation and at considerable height.

The Eurasian Spoonbill performs powerful flight with extended neck and legs. It performs short glides interspersed with fast, shallow wing-beats.

The breeding season varies according to the range, depending on water levels in some parts of the distribution.
The Eurasian Spoonbill nests in monospecific colonies. Both sexes take part in building the platform, but mainly the female with materials brought by the male. The nest is made with sticks, twigs, reeds or grass stems, and lined with grass and leaves. It is placed on the ground on islands, or in trees or bushes, about 5 metres above the ground.

The female lays 3-4 eggs. The incubation lasts 24-25 days, shared by both adults. At hatching, the chicks are covered with sparse white down. They do not have the spatulate bill at hatching, but a short, soft, fleshy bill. It begins to flatten at 9 days of age, and it is similar to adult’s bill at about two weeks.
The young fledge 45-50 days after hatching, and are sexually mature at 3-4 years old.

The Eurasian Spoonbill feeds on water bugs adults and larvae, dragonflies, caddisflies (Trichoptera), locusts, flies and other insect species. It also takes crustaceans, molluscs, worms, leeches, frogs, tadpoles and small fish, and occasionally some algae.
They forage in groups by walking slowly in shallow water.    

The Eurasian Spoonbill is not globally threatened, but this species is vulnerable to disturbances, pollution, drainage of wetlands and reduction of the breeding range in W Europe.
However, this bird is still fairly widespread and common in several parts of its range.