African Spoonbill

Afrikaanse lepelaar

African Spoonbill (Platalea alba)

The African Spoonbill (Platalea alba) is a spoonbill from the family of ibises and spoonbills (Threskiornithidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
Afrikaanse lepelaar
English name:
African Spoonbill
German name:
Afrikanischer Loffler
French name:
Spatule d'Afrique
Scientific name:
Platalea alba

Scientific classification




The African Spoonbill is a long-legged wading bird. Its body is predominantly white, except for its red legs, face, and bill. This bird can be easily identified by its uniquely spoon-shaped bill. At birth, the African Spoonbill's bill does not resemble a spoon. It is born with a short beak, that gradually develops into its spoon-like shape. It usually resembles a spoon right before it is time to leave its nest. Both the male and female birds are similar in appearance.

  • African spoonbills have pink-red legs and a bare red skin between the eye and the beak.
  • They swing back and forth with foraging with beak.
  • The young are born with a short beak.

The African Spoonbill is usually a shy and alert bird. It is usually found singly, but can also be encountered in pairs or in groups. It is usually silent, except for an occasional grunt when alarmed. This bird travels by flight. It flies with its neck and legs extended, while flapping its wings steadily in the air. The African Spoonbill feeds by fishing in shallow water. It fishes for its food by swinging its open bill from side to side in the water. Its bill acts as a scythe (hooked tool) to catch its food.

Standard Measurements

Body Length (cm):
The male (drake) of the African Spoonbill measures approximately 90-91 centimeters. The female measures approximately 90-91 centimeters.
Body Weight (grams):
The male will weight about 1200-1900 gram. The female will weight about 1200-1900 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

It lays its eggs mostly in a nest platform of sticks or reeds in a tree near water, but its nest can also be found in swamp reeds, among rocks, marsh plants, or cliffs. These nests are either near the ground or in trees over water. The inside of the nest is often lined with leaves. 

The female African Spoonbill usually lays from 2-5 spotted with colored dots of red, brown, or blue eggs and incubates them for 27-29 days.

Bird banding:
Recommended closed leg band ring size for the African Spoonbill is 14 mm.
The leg band ring can only be applied on a young spoonbill at around 12 days old.

It doesn't matter what leg that you band, but it's good to have a consistent system.
Suggested: Left leg = Female, Right leg = Male

Photos of the African Spoonbill

Videos of the African Spoonbill