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African Spoonbill Platalea alba
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is stable, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour The migratory patterns of this species are poorly known (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992), although it is likely to make nomadic movements in response to local rainfall rather than truly seasonal movements (Hancock et al. 1992). The breeding season varies throughout the range, and is also variable from year to year, being suspended in sites when the rains do not occur (Hancock et al. 1992). The species breeds during the dry season from West Africa to eastern Sudan, in the rains (or sometimes in the dry season) in East and central Africa, and in winter or early spring in southern Africa (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992). It nests colonially with other species (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Hockey et al. 2005), usually in groups of 5-20 pairs (Hockey et al. 2005), and occasionally in groups of up to 250 pairs or more (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It remains gregarious outside of the breeding season, usually in small parties of 3-30 individuals (Brown et al. 1982, Hockey et al. 2005), roosting communally in trees or reedbeds (Hockey et al. 2005) and resting along the shores of inland shallow waters, sometimes in large numbers of up to 1000 (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat The species inhabits large, shallow inland waters such as lakes and rivers, seasonal and permanent pans, marshes, flood plains, sewage works (Hockey et al. 2005), reservoirs and artificial ponds (Hancock et al. 1992), less often occurring at coastal lagoons, salt-pans, creeks and estuaries (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet The species is carnivorous, its diet consisting of small fish and aquatic invertebrates (del Hoyo et al. 1992) such as crayfish and water beetles (Hancock et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a flat oval platform of sticks and reeds situated over water on partly submerged trees, in bushes or reeds, on the ground on rocky islets (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992) or on rocky ledges (Hancock et al. 1992). The species nests colonially in favoured nesting sites such as secluded lakes, river oxbows and islands of vegetation (Hockey et al. 2005).

In Madagascar the species is seriously threatened by the destruction of breeding colonies at Lake Kinkony, Lake Bemamba, Lake Ihotry and Lake Alaotra (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is also threatened by the drainage of wetlands in some areas (Hancock et al. 1992).

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hancock, J. A.; Kushlan, J. A.; Kahl, M. P. 1992. Storks, ibises and spoonbills of the world. Academic Press, London.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Platalea alba. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 20/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - African spoonbill (Platalea alba) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises, Spoonbills)
Species name author Scopoli, 1786
Population size 7300-73000 mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 14,200,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change