Friday, February 20, 2009

In search of Spoonbills

I'm headed to Merritt Island for some bird-watching and I hope to see one of Joy Postle's favorite birds, the Roseate Spoonbill. Like me she seemed to be most interested in Florida's wading birds and the Spoonbill is one of the most exotic of that set. The Spoonbill found its way into Postle's paintings and poetry, and I imagine that it represented a good portion of her set in the performance piece she created with her husband called "Glamour Birds" of the Americas. In the act, Postle's husband would play recorded bird songs while she played the piano, sang, recited poetry and created colorful, lifesize birds out of colored chalk before a live audience. The newspaper clipping above is from 1945.

While the Spoonbill has magnificently colored, glamorous feathers, the rest of it is just plain odd. Combine the prehistoric-like head of a wood stork with the coloring and grace of a flamingo, then add a giant spoon for a beak and you get a Spoonbill. They prefer mangrove swamps, which is why you don't see them much in Orlando. On one rare occasion I spotted one in a lake nearby that was shrinking due to a drought, pushing it's huge spoon-shaped bill in to the muddy shallows. I have yet to photograph one in the wild, but maybe today is the day!

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