The roseate spoonbill sweeps its spatula-shaped bill side to side to sift through shallow water for crayfish, shrimps, crabs and fish.
The bill is so sensitive that the slightest movement triggers a snap reflex, enabling the bird to forage in murky water.
Spoonbill chicks hatch with a short, straight bill. At about nine days old, their bill starts to flatten. At a month old, development of the spoon-shaped bill is almost complete.
The chicks have white downy feathers and start developing the carmine plumage when they begin feeding on carotenoid-rich crustaceans. It takes them several moults and 33 months to don the vivid crimson plumage.
Roseate spoonbills were relentlessly hunted for their feathers to adorn hats and fans. By the 1860s, the roseate spoonbill was virtually wiped out in the United States. With protection and concerted conservation efforts, the roseate spoonbill has somewhat recovered.
However, it is very sensitive to changes in its environment and remains vulnerable to habitat degradation and climate change.