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Yellow-billed Spoonbill
Platalea flavipes

Pelecaniformes Order – Threskiornithidae Family

Length: 76-90 cm
Wingspan: 140cm

Yellow-billed Spoonbill is endemic to Australia.
It is a large white water bird. In breeding plumage, adult has pale bluish bare face outlined in black. Outer wings feathers, near the tail, are tipped black, and we can see long hackles on upper breast. Body plumage is slightly washed yellowish.    
Outside breeding season, Yellow-billed Spoonbill is white overall. Face is yellow. Long bill is spoon-shaped and pale yellowish. Eyes are pale pinkish. Legs and feet are yellowish.
Both sexes are similar.
Juvenile is similar to adults, but it has black markings on inner flight feathers (tertials).

Yellow-billed Spoonbill nests in colonies, often with ibises and Royal Spoonbills.
Nest may be built in high fork of tree above water, but also among reed beds. It is a shallow platform made with sticks, reeds and rushes. Nest is unlined.
Usually, male brings nest-materials such as sticks and reeds to female which builds the nest. Nest-materials are sometimes taken from an old nest.

Female lays 3 to 4 smooth, white eggs. Incubation lasts about three weeks, shared by both parents.
Chicks are altricial, and both adults feed them with partially regurgitated food.  
Young fledge at about 2 to 3 weeks after hatching. Parents feed them for a few weeks more after leaving the nest, but young return to the nest to be fed.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill feeds on aquatic invertebrates such as insects and larvae, crustaceans and small fish.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill has a large range and it is common in its habitat. The most important cause of nest failure is due to starvation and not to predation. 

Fr: Spatule à bec jaune
All : Gelbschnabellöffler
Esp :  Espátula Piquigualda
Ital :  Spatola beccogiallo
Nd : Geelsnavellepelaar
Russe :  Колпица желтоклювая

Photographs by Patrick Ingremeau

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

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

Birds in backyards (Birds Australia and Australian Museum)


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Summary Cards


Similar species: The Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia) is slightly smaller, with black bill and legs, and crest with long feathers on crown during breeding season.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill is rather silent, but sometimes, it may produce weak grunting and bill-clapping.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill lives in wet areas. Often seen in shallow freshwaters wetlands, lagoons and swamps, it also may frequent dry pastures, but it is very rare in saltwater wetlands. It does not need very large water areas.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill lives in Australia, in North, east and west Australia in suitable habitats. It is also found in very wet inland areas. It is usually less common in coastal regions. It is vagrant to New Zealand.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill feeds by walking slowly in shallow freshwaters. It sweeps its partly open bill from side to side, in order to catch aquatic invertebrates and larvae.
As other numerous waders, Yellow-billed Spoonbill has papillae (vibration detectors) inside its bill, at spoon-level, and it can detect prey items, even in muddy water. This particularity allows this species to feed by day or night. Once prey is captured, Yellow-billed Spoonbill lifts its bill up for swallowing the food.
They are monogamous during breeding season. Some courtship displays show the male bringing stick to female, and performing aerial chases.
Yellow-billed Spoonbill is nomadic, and moves seasonally outside breeding season.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill flies with outstretched neck and head, and trailing legs.