Monday Portrait

It is out of the breeding season but only just, which might explain why this European Spoonbill still has a very yellow tip on its beak. I couldn’t resist taking photographs of it.

Their Portuguese name is Colhereiro, and the Algarve is one of the best places to observe them in Portugal. Although having said that numbers are declining because of habitat loss, pollution and human disturbance. Resident populations are now ‘vulnerable‘ in Portugal, and the status of those that overwinter in the Algarve has been raised to ‘near threatened’. It’s one of the reasons I repeatedly share concerns about the lack of sustainable conservation by local authorities, the ongoing developments within this protected area and also get so cross with noisy and inconsiderate walkers and boaters.

It is worth remembering if a bird flies away or makes repeated alarm calls, people are too close. Every time human activity repeatedly disturbs feeding or roosting birds, or even temporarily changes their habitat we impact on their long term future. One in five bird species in Europe is threatened by extinction; with raptors, seabirds, waders and wildfowl the fastest declining groups of birds and wetlands are one of the habitats most at risk.

Everyone should be concerned, so let me tell you a little bit more about this wonderful bird whilst they are relatively easy to spot. Spoonbills are almost as large as a grey heron, with a wingspan of around 1.2 metres. They feed on aquatic invertebrates, fish and frogs by sweeping their spoon-shaped bill from side to side, selecting their food from the swirling sediment and waters. The swirling waters are probably why they are often accompanied by an egret when feeding.

That fantastic bill also gives them their collective noun – runcible – and if you have a moment do check out some earlier posts of mine which include some great shots of runcibles of spoonbills as well as more videos and even poetry;

Aren’t they fabulous? If you agree here are a couple of ideas for what you can do to help them and other waders survive. Participate in a bird tracking project such as those run by the British Trust for Ornithology or if you see a ringed bird anywhere in Europe report it via the European Colour-Ring Birding website. Donate to or become a member of one of the many organisations who are working to protect birds and their habitats such as the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) or BirdLife International. The latter work worldwide and on their website list partners in every country if you want to help protect wetlands and waders where you live.

Listen to the Birds. People are destroying & consuming nature at a devastating rate. Birds are our early warning system.

— BirdLife International

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

15 thoughts

  1. Thank you for sharing! The pans at the western side of Olhao mean a lot to us for our bird/nature walks. Are there any detailed plans for their immediate threads available? We would feel very sad if the birdies would have to move on.

    1. As far as we know as the moment the salt pans are okay, but like you would be much happier if there were firmer plans to maintain them and surrounding areas.

  2. They are one of my favourite birds to see and this year I’ve seen many more than in previous years. Maybe because they are congregating more in groups, or perhaps I’ve been lucky. We do try to proceed with care and not disturb them. Their habitat is going to be frontline as the tides rise. I suspect they will be more resourceful than man.

    1. Glad you love them too, and great you’ve been seeing more. 🙂

      Sadly though it could be because many of their roosting areas have been lost over past 18 months. A huge roosting area just outside Olhão has gone. So the areas they can visit get more and more crowded. In the short term more sightings, but in long term fewer birds as less likely to breed. Waders are disappearing, and some species such as godwits and curlews are at extreme risk of extinction.

        1. Spreading the word will definitely help, and if you can join the SPEA that would be amazing. The more we can all do to support those who are working on conservation projects and campaigning, the better 🙂

    2. Excellent shot of bill tip.
      The roost in Olhao has seemingly reverted to being a salt pan.
      The 3 regulars seem to have moved, and neither feeding nor coming for freshish water, at present.
      They have been quite antisocial feeding alone, but the groups beyond Fuzeta were much chummier.
      Egrets certainly fewer this year, at least in Olhao.

      1. Thanks 🙂 I was so confused to see it initially!

        Noticeable the changes isn’t it, we do wonder if the loss of the ponds from the old sewage works is affecting things. Do you know what has happened to the plans to turn them into a reserve?

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