Capricorn Coast Birds
  Royal Spoonbills feeding  
These photos were taken while on a on tour of the Mercure Capricorn Resort wetlands organised by Capricorn Landcare, the local branch of Landcare Australia. The day was heavily overcast and marred by intermittent rain and drizzle, not good conditions for bird photography. I had begun to accept that it wasn't likely to be exciting in this respect when we came across a scattered flock of Royal Spoonbills so we stopped and I began to take some photos.
This was one of the first shots I took, the scattered flock was browsing quietly, just a dabble here and a dabble there.
Then a change came over the spoonbills, they began to gather in a small area and became more purposeful, more bills were in the water, the dabble tempo rose and heads began to swing to a single direction. The small flock started moving steadily in that direction, I felt they had struck gastronomic pay dirt and my interest quickened.
The news spread quickly among the spoonbills and the scattered birds silently coalesced into a single body that began moving methodically back and forth across a particular area, feeding steadily as they went.
This was the last photo I took, the rain had become fairly heavy and we were back in the bus, the Spoonbills had stopped and were feeding seriously, I assume they had struck the mother lode and could be described as gorging. It was only later, when I was going through the days takings, that I noticed the solitary Little Egret among the Spoonbills and was immediately struck by the profound differences between these two wetland species.
I used this crop from the last photo as the basis of my bird column for the next week, feeling that it perfectly illustrated how bills, and birds, had evolved very different methods and mechanisms for feeding, even in the same environment, the essence of this column is below.
Spoonbills feed mainly on small fish, crustaceans such as shrimps and yabbies, and aquatic insect and their lavae. Their bill has many vibration detectors, called papillae on the inside of the spoon, so they can feel for prey items in murky water and can feed by day or night. Once food is caught they lift their bill up and let it slide down their throat. Also in the photo is a Little Egret and it's interesting to compare the difference between the two species' bills and their respective feeding habits. Egrets lunge at and spear their prey and have a long, sharp, straight bill, they also rely on sight to find prey whereas Spoonbills sweep through the bottom mud and debris and rely on feel.
Another differecnce betweem the two is their social habit, Egrets and Herons are fairly solitary birds, although they are often seen in company they are just as often seen alone. Spoonbills however are mostly seen in flocks such as the one in the photos. I can't help but feel the egret was put out when this great mob of ravening spoonbills suddenly overtook it while it was quietly feeding alone.
  more pages  
dance of the Brolgas
man v coot, or birds aren't silly
Fishing Creek Road
Hedlow Creek
Waterpark Creek
Blackdown Tableland
  Great Keppel Island