Yellow-billed Spoonbill


Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes)

The Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes) is a lepelaar from the family of Ibissen en lepelaars (Threskiornithidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
English name:
Yellow-billed Spoonbill
German name:
French name:
Spatule a bec jaune
Scientific name:
Platalea flavipes

Scientific classification




The Yellow-billed Spoonbill is a large, white waterbird with a yellow face and spatulate (spoon-shaped) bill, and yellow legs and feet. During breeding season, the facial skin is outlined in black, the lacy outer wing plumes are tipped black and there are long hackles on its upper breast. Out of breeding, the face is yellow with no black outline and the lacy plumes and hackles are reduced or absent. Young birds are similar to adults, but have black markings on the inner flight feathers (tertials). 

Similar Species

Their large spoon-shaped bills easily distinguish spoonbills from all other water birds. The yellow bill and legs distinguish the Yellow-billed Spoonbill from the slightly smaller Royal Spoonbill, P. regia, which has a black bill and legs, and a distinctive crest (more apparent during breeding season).


The Yellow-billed Spoonbill feeds on aquatic insects and their larvae, using its bill to sweep shallow waters for prey. The spatulate bill has many vibration detectors, called papillae, on the inside of the spoon, which means the bird can feel for prey items even in murky water and can feed by day or night. Once food is caught, it lifts its bill up and lets the items slide down its throat. The Yellow-billed Spoonbill has less sensory papillae and a smaller spoon than the Royal Spoonbill, which means that it catches slower moving prey.

Standard Measurements

Lengte man:
The male (drake) of the Yellow-billed Spoonbill measures approximately 83-90 centimeters. The female measures approximately 83-90 centimeters.
Weight male:
The male will weight about 1810-1930 gram. The female will weight about 1810-1930 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

The Yellow-billed Spoonbill is found in the shallows of freshwater wetlands, dams, lagoons and swamps, and sometimes in dry pastures, but rarely uses saltwater wetlands. It can use much smaller areas of water than the Royal Spoonbill.

Nest placement and structure:

The Yellow-billed Spoonbill often nests in colonies with other water birds, such as ibises and Royal Spoonbills. It places its nest in high forks of trees over water, or in among reed beds, building a shallow, unlined platform of sticks, rushes and reeds. The male collects the nest materials while the female builds and both sexes share incubation and care of the young.

The female Yellow-billed Spoonbill usually lays from 2-4 dull white eggs and incubates them for 26-31 days.

Bird banding:
Recommended leg band size for the Yellow-billed Spoonbill is 16 mm.
The leg band can only be applied on a young lepelaar at around 0 days old.

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

Photos of the Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Videos of the Yellow-billed Spoonbill

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