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Royal spoonbills

royal spoonbills in blue water

Royal spoonbills, Platalea regia, IMG 5495A - These are birds that, when foraging for food, take life at a very leisurely pace. They wade slowly through the water, shuffling along to stir up the sediment with their feet and sending any prospective prey scurrying for safety, but even in murky water the small fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and frogs that are the main ingredients of the birds' diet have little hope of escape.

The spoon-shaped section of the bird's bill is the perfect tool for this aquatic bird, for there are vibration sensors, called papillae, on the inside of the bill and these allow the bird to sense the slightest movement of its prey. And once it’s aware that some tasty morsel is in the vicinity, it sweeps its bill slowly back and forth in a wide arc through the water to grab any small creatures that are within its reach.

These birds were photographed feeding in a coastal estuary near the New South Wales town of Crescent Head.

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