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Royal Spoonbill

(Platalea regia)
Alternate name(s): "Black-billed Spoonbill"
Size: 75-80 cm
Weight: 1.4-2.1 kg

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Royal Spoonbill at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information




Near-lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage; note the characteristic neck feathers, yellow patches above the eyes, and the red forehead patch (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

Near-lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

Lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2006]

Two Royal Spoonbills in breeding plumage, offering a lateral and a dorsal view
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2011]

Royal Spoonbills displaying their breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2009]

Here a group of Royal Spoonbills resting on a mudbank
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

Frontal view of a Royal Spoonbill in non-breeding plumage; note the absence of a red patch on the forehead (photo courtesy of B. Kinross)
[Beachmere, QLD, February 2012]


Lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in non-breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2012]

Lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in non-breeding plumage
[Narrabri, NSW, August 2012]

Lateral view of a Royal Spoonbill in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2012]

Landing gear out, full flaps... (photo courtesy R. Druce)

... and touchdown! (photo courtesy R. Druce)

Three Royal Spoonbills seen in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

For those who like diversity: Adult Pacific Black Duck (front left), Royal Spoonbill (right) and Masked Lapwing (rear left)
[20 km South of Narrabri, 2006]

Three Yellow-billed Spoonbills roosting together with one Royal Spoonbill
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, May 2013]

Direct comparison of a Royal Spoonbill with two Australian White Ibises
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]


These two youngster Royal Spoonbills (left and right) were begging for food
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2011]

Lateral view of an immature Royal Spoonbill in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2011]

A Royal Spoonbill can open its bill THAT far...
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2011]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Nov Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: 26 - 31 days Fledging age: ca. 49 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Royal Spoonbills breed Feb - May. Given the right conditions, Royal Spoonbills can breed any time of the year. They breed in colonies, together with other aquatic birds.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, lined with leaves Height above ground: 0 - 20 m

Royal Spoonbills can nest in trees or just above water level, e.g. on lignum.

Pair of Royal Spoonbills at their nest on an island in Narrabri Lake
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2009]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 69 x 42 mm Colour: White, with tiny red-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval


Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Pair/family

Like many other aquatic bird species, Royal Spoonbills like resting in the safety of numbers, often in mixed groups
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2016]

While in the photo above Royal Spoonbills rest standing on one leg, like many other birds, here they are seen "on their haunches"
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2016]

Food, Diet

Royal Spoonbills feed on small animals, such as crustacians, snails and insects, but also fish, caught in their bill while sifting through shallow water.

Royal Spoonbills feeding in the shallow water of a semi-permanent wetland
[Fogg Dam CR, NT, August 2014]

Royal Spoonbill sifting through water

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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