Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor)

Black-faced Spoonbill

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Threskiornithidae | [latin] Platalea minor | [authority] Temminck and Schlegel, 1849 | [UK] Black-faced Spoonbill | [FR] Petite Spatule | [DE] Schwarzgesicht-Loffler | [ES] Espatula Menor | [NL] Kleine Lepelaar


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Platalea minor EU e


Platelea or Spoonbills are a group of large, long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae, which also includes the Ibises. Spoonbills are monogamous, but, so far as is known, only for one season at a time. Most species nest in trees or reed-beds, often with ibises or herons. The male gathers nesting material?mostly sticks and reeds, sometimes taken from an old nest?the female weaves it into a large, shallow bowl or platform which varies in its shape and structural integrity according to species. The female lays a clutch of about 3 smooth, oval, white eggs and both parents incubate; chicks hatch one at a time rather than all together. The newly hatched young are blind and cannot care for themselves immediately; both parents feed them by partial regurgitation. Chicks’ bills are short and straight, and only gain the characteristic spoonbill shape as they mature. Their feeding continues for a few weeks longer after the family leaves the nest. The primary cause of brood failure appears not to be predation but starvation. African Spoonbills (Platalea alba) standing and feeding in captivity.All have large, flat, spatulate bills and feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping the partly opened bill from side to side. The moment any small aquatic creature touches the inside of the bill?an insect, crustacean, or tiny fish?it is snapped shut. Spoonbills generally prefer fresh water to salt but are found in both environments. They need to feed many hours each day.

Physical charateristics

Smallish, white spoonbill with blackish bill and face. Similar species is the Eurasian Spoonbill P. leucorodia, but is larger, has yellow tip to bill and white face

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 60 cm size max.: 78 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 34 days fledging max.: 38 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 6  


Eurasia : East. Platalea minor breeds on islets off the west coast of North Korea and South Korea, and Liaoning province in mainland China. Birds have been reported in the Tumen estuary of Russia, and breeding was recorded in South Primorye for the first time in 2006. The three major wintering sites are the Tsengwen estuary of Taiwan, the Deep Bay area of Hong Kong (China), and the Chinese mainland and Hainan Island. It also winters in Cheju, South Korea, Kyushu and Okinawa, Japan, and Red River delta, Vietnam, and there are recent records from Thailand, the Philippines, Macau (China) and inland China.


The habitat of the Blackfaced Spoonbill are tidal flats, estuaries and fishponds. Wintering species in Hong Kong feed in drained fishponds and traditional ponds. In Taiwan, they loaf on intertidal
flats and shallow water and feed in estuaries and fishponds.


The breeding season begins in early May and nests are constructed upon cliffs; the clutch size is usually three eggs. Breeding success is relatively low but fledging generally occurs at around five weeks old.

Feeding habits

It is mainly a crepuscular feeder utilising intertidal mudflats; resting, sleeping and digesting occur at a variety of sites (trees, man-made structure, shallow water) within 2-3 km of feeding areas6. Spoonbills employ tactile feeding using lateral sweeps of the bill to locate fish and shrimp prey

Video Black-faced Spoonbill


copyright: Vicky Cheng


This spoonbill is listed as Endangered because it has a very small population, split into several small subpopulations, that is believed to be undergoing a continuing decline owing to loss of habitat to industrial development, land reclamation, and pollution. A lack of baseline data makes identifying a population trend problematic, but if the apparent recent increases are confirmed as genuine, the species may warrant downlisting in the future.
Recent speculation suggests that pollution from pesticides is most congruent with demographic history, in terms of scale and timing of declines and subsequent recovery, as an explantation of past population reduction4. However, habitat destruction is probably the biggest threat currently. The main wintering grounds are threatened by industrial development, particularly a key site in Taiwan and also in China, and reclamation, especially in South Korea, Japan and China. Economic development in China has converted many coastal wetlands into aquaculture ponds and industrial estates. Pollution remains a major threat to birds wintering in Hong Kong. An outbreak of botulism at one of the major wintering sites killed 73 birds representing 7% of the world population from December 2002 to February 2003. Increasing levels of disturbance by fishers and tourists and also hunting are threats in China and Vietnam8. Fishers in China collect waterbird eggs at nesting sites
Black-faced Spoonbill status Endangered


Migratory; arrives in Korea in Mar, and departs in Nov. Earliest arrival of wintering bird in Japan, end of Oct; wintering population in Hong Kong present late Oct-Mar, with some immatures staying throughout summer since 1987.

Distribution map

Black-faced Spoonbill distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *