National Geographic : 1962 Feb
KODACHROMEt NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Streamlined in flight, a majestic spoonbill sweeps across the Florida sky. No longer hunted for food and feathers, the species revives slowly in the U. S. All flocks may flour ish again if fishing grounds as well as nesting areas receive protection. before they develop enough confidence to go all the way. When at last they can do this, young spoonbills are close to independence. Soon every young bird that has learned to navigate has been taken to the feeding grounds and left there, fully aware of what every young spoonbill should know. Only then do the adults start to disperse, their job of raising a family completed. Building Boom Threatens Spoonbills When Hurricane Donna swept through Florida in early September, 1960, it devastat ed most of the mangroves on the spoonbills' breeding site at Cowpens. When the spoonbills arrived in October, we feared that the damage to their nesting place might cause them to leave. To our relief, they not only stayed but began nesting opera tions almost at once-building in the dead trees, with none of the usual cover of heavy mangrove leaves over them. Fortunately the weather was mild. The spoonbills had one of their best seasons, producing between 175 and 200 young. But despite such encouraging adaptability 288 to nature's ways, Florida's spoonbill popu lation has decreased from 215 to 125 pairs during the past five years. The future of these lovely birds is clouded by the unprecedented building boom on the Keys, for spoonbills just don't seem to be able to coexist with draglines, bulldozers, insecticides, and the like. The pressures of an expanding human population are also apparent on the Texas coast, where the roseate spoonbills have been doing well. With an eye to the future, we should try to preserve in a permanent and inviolate status all the nesting and feeding areas the spoon bills require to survive. In one such enlight ened transaction, Florida recently placed the Cowpens rookery under the State Board of Parks and Historic Memorials. The National Audubon Society has negotiated with the board a land management contract that will protect the spoonbills nesting there. The people of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas are justifiably proud of their roseate spoonbills, and I am sure that they will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the survival of these beautiful neighbors.