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The Art of Capturing Nature's Beauty: The Story of Geoffrey Smith's Rosette Spoonbills


 

A beautiful Rosette Spoonbill with its pink wings spread ope.

Intorductuon to Rosette Spoonbills


Pretty in Pink, People love their beautiful color! Often confused with flamingos, rosette spoonbills are very different in size and appearance. We have large populations here in South Florida, you can see them feeding in roadside ditches as well as out in the wilds of Florida. I recently observed these two magnificent examples hanging out on the edge of a swampy marsh. I was spellbound watching them flitting from the trees, down to the shallow water where they walk as they feed using that funny-shaped bill. Their bright pink feathers are so striking! I was completely inspired.


According to the Cornell Ornithology lab (one of my favorite sites to learn about birds), Roseate Spoonbill gets their pink coloration from the foods they eat. Crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates contain pigments called carotenoids that help turn their feathers pink. They forage and nest in areas along the coastal southeastern U.S., and south to South America. These social birds nest and roost in trees and shrubs with other large wading birds.


Males collect sticks for females to build a bulky platform lined with finer plant material such as moss and strips of bark. The eggs incubate for about 22 days. Roseate Spoonbill chicks don't have a spoon-shaped bill immediately after hatching. When they are 9 days old the bill starts to flatten, by 16 days it starts to look a bit more spoonlike, and by 39 days it is nearly full size.


Original oil painting of wading birds by artist Geoffrey C Smith.

Sketch - Draw - Paint - Sculpt

The Evolution of an Idea


Roseate Spoonbills are one of my favorite bird species, and I always enjoy observing them whenever I get the opportunity. Although I have a backlog of photos and videos, I can't help but go out to get more. I have found them near me at Stick Marsh, Lake Okeechobee, Veara Wetlands, and frequently along the roadside after a good rain.


When I go out to observe them, I watch them in the wild and come back to my studio to sketch and work out ideas for new sculpture designs or paintings. During my last visit to Stick Marsh, I observed a large rookery located on an island near the shore. It was loaded with nesting birds, and I found their interactions very entertaining.


The male spoonbills would fly over to the bank near where I was standing to pick up long, thin sticks from the edge of the bank. They would then fly the sticks back to present them to their mates. Their behavior was like a ballet, with multiple little shows going on all at once. When the light was right, the photos were beautiful.



A Rosette Spoonbill flying in front of distant trees.

I always aim to work in scale with my sculptures and these are no exception. They are life-size, with one bird already perched in a mangrove tree and the other landing with its wings up to showcase its intricate wing detail and the movement that my sculptures are so well known for. In January I am on my way to my new foundry in Colorado to complete the sculptures. If you are interested in owning one, please feel free to reach out to me.



     I'm currently on the lookout for a name for my new sculptures. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them. Shoot me an email with your suggestions and let's come up with a cool name together!


Artist Geoffrey C Smith sculpting a Rosette Spoonbill out of clay.

 

Conclusion, Conservation Success


According to All About Birds, Roseate Spoonbills nest and forage in areas that can be difficult to reach, so obtaining an accurate estimate of their population is difficult. The best available estimates come from the North American Breeding Bird Survey and Partners in Flight. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their populations increased by nearly 6.5% per year between 1966 and 2019. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 170,000 individuals and rates them 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. In Florida, much of their nesting habitat occurs in protected areas, including the Everglades National Park and national wildlife refuges, but their foraging areas are not and can be affected by changes in water management that increase salinity and affect food availability. Nesting spoonbills are also vulnerable to human disturbance from boating and other recreation activities that can result in nest abandonment.


I hope you enjoyed learning a little about this beautiful bird.


Be Well, Be Loved,

Geoffrey Smith



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