Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) by Quy Tran

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) by Quy Tran

Birds of the Bible – Roseate Spoonbill

The Roseate Spoonbill is a member of the Threskiornithidae – Ibises, Spoonbills Family. We see them quite often in this area, especially in the Fall and Winter time.  I am always thrilled when we come upon them in our birdwatching adventures. Their cousins, Ibises, are a Bird of the Bible.

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day. (Genesis 1:20-23 NKJV)

Since the Lord created all the birds, this is one of His neater creations, at least in my opinion. Their spoon-shaped bill is sort of unique to the birds. There are actually five other Spoonbills besides the Roseate.

The Roseate Spoonbill is 28–34 in (71–86 cm) long, with a  47–52 in (120–133 cm) wingspan and a weigh 2.6–4.0 lb (1.2–1.8 kg). The legs, bill, neck and spatulate bill all appear elongated. Adults have a bare greenish head (“golden buff” when breeding) and a white neck, back, and breast (with a tuft of pink feathers in the center when breeding), and are otherwise a deep pink. The bill is grey. There is no significant sexual dimorphism.

Like the American Flamingo, their pink color is diet-derived, consisting of the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin. Another carotenoid, astaxanthin, can also be found deposited in flight and body feathers. The colors can range from pale pink to bright magenta, depending on age and location. Captive Spoonbill are fed their normal diets, plus some include juices made from carrots.

Unlike herons, spoonbills fly with their necks outstretched. They alternate groups of stiff, shallow wingbeats with glides.

Spoonbills feeding in a pond by the school. Cloudy day. Not the best, but you can see their eating behavior. Taken by me.

This species feeds in shallow fresh or coastal waters by swinging its bill from side to side as it steadily walks through the water, often in groups. The spoon-shaped bill allows it to sift easily through mud. It feeds on crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and very small fish ignored by larger waders. In the United States a popular place to observe Roseate Spoonbills is “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. (Also at Circle B Bar Reserve as you can see by the list below of some of my sighting on e-Bird) Roseate Spoonbills must compete for food with Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, and American White Pelicans.

We came upon a group of them roosting at Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was the first time I had seen that many in one place and so close to us.

Enlarge - Count at least 20 Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills at Ding Darling NWR – Dan at work.

The Roseate Spoonbill nests in shrubs or trees, often mangroves, laying 2 to 5 eggs, which are whitish with brown markings. Immature birds have white, feathered heads, and the pink of the plumage is paler. The bill is yellowish or pinkish.

Here is one I caught in a tree at Circle B Bar Reserve:

Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork by Lee

Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork by Lee

What prompted writing about one of the bird friends I always enjoy seeing, is an article about the Roseate Spoonbill in one of my latest additions of BirdWatching. It’s a great magazine and I am not condemning it. I am used to “reading around the evolutionary influences” in articles about birds. But I was offended by this remark, “It’s hard not to look at the Roseate Spoonbill in the Everglades and think, ‘What happened here:’ Amid the herons and cormorants, the spoonbill seems like an evolutionary hiccup, a failed experiment.

One, the Roseate Spoonbill is far from an “evolutionary hiccup!” It hasn’t evolved, it was created by a loving all knowing Creator, that knew exactly what He was doing. Two, it definitely was not a “failed experiment.” The way the bill is designed and the sensitivity of its touch is amazing. The Lord promised to provide for all His creatures as well as His own people. Nor are we “hiccups.” We are all created by him, but there are differences and varieties in the birds just as there is in our talents and abilities.

I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. (Psalms 50:11 NKJV)

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)

All the birds of the heavens made their nests in its boughs; Under its branches all the beasts of the field brought forth their young; And in its shadow all great nations made their home. (Ezekiel 31:6 NKJV)

(Wikipedia and other internet resources consulted)


Birds of the Bible

Birds of the Bible – Ibises

Birds of the Bible – Isaiah 34:11

Birds of the World – Threskiornithidae – Ibises, Spoonbills

World – Life Observations – Roseate Spoonbill

  Location Date
1 Roseate Spoonbill Corpus Christi 8-Nov-01
2 Roseate Spoonbill Circle B Bar Reserve 9-Feb-07
3 Roseate Spoonbill Viera Wetlands 20-Nov-07
4 Roseate Spoonbill Merritt Island NWR–Black Point Wildlife Dr. 22-Nov-07
5 Roseate Spoonbill Circle B Bar Reserve 10-May-08
6 Roseate Spoonbill Lake John Rookery 15-May-08
7 Roseate Spoonbill J. N. Ding Darling NWR 15-Jul-08
8 Roseate Spoonbill Circle B Bar Reserve 1-Nov-08
9 Roseate Spoonbill 6 Circle B Bar Reserve 28-Nov-08
10 Roseate Spoonbill 16 Merritt Island NWR–Black Point Wildlife Dr. 20-Jan-09
11 Roseate Spoonbill 3 Circle B Bar Reserve 24-Feb-09
12 Roseate Spoonbill 4 Circle B Bar Reserve 10-Mar-09
13 Roseate Spoonbill 15 Circle B Bar Reserve 24-Oct-09
14 Roseate Spoonbill 15 Circle B Bar Reserve 23-Dec-09
15 Roseate Spoonbill 5 Hillsborough 4-Feb-10
16 Roseate Spoonbill 1 MacDill AFB 31-Jan-11
17 Roseate Spoonbill 1 Lake Parker Park 7-Jan-12
18 Roseate Spoonbill 3 Circle B Bar Reserve 16-Jan-12
19 Roseate Spoonbill 2 Picnic Island Beach 24-Jan-12
20 Roseate Spoonbill 1 Lake Hollingsworth 26-Jan-12
21 Roseate Spoonbill 3 MacDill AFB 16-Aug-12
22 Roseate Spoonbill 3 Circle B Bar Reserve 10-Nov-12


Fair Fowl, Foul Fowl

Some of These Laws Are For The Birds!

Deuteronomy 14:12-20 by Francois Maurice

I love drawing birds, so illustrating this passage from Deuteronomy was a natural. I could have chosen the passage from Leviticus 11:13-19. They are identical. The same birds, in the same order with the same sentence structure. What are the odds? This got me scratching my head in quizzical puzzlement. (Wow, four z’s in two words! What are the odds?) Well, it turns out these two books were written by Moses. I didn’t know that then, but I do now! I knew that Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai talking to God. What I didn’t know was that, when he climbed down off that obscure, smoking, lightning-illuminated mountain; besides bringing us the Ten Commandments, he also brought the Oral Torah and six hundred thirteen specific and detailed laws meant for the people of Israel.  I want to delve briefly into these laws and to look at kosher laws, what they mean and how they apply to this illustration.

Known as the Mitzvot , these laws address all aspects of human life. There are three hundred sixty five negative and two hundred forty eight positive commandments. The negative ones are the ‘thou shalt nots…” and the positive ones are the ‘thou shalts…’

They are meant to preserve the sanctity of Jewish observance and the holiness of religious practices. They are also meant to encourage a serious perspective and importance to the business of living a meaningful and humble life.  A life that honors God and, as much as an individual is capable of adhering to the Mitzvot, keeps His commandments. This is the subjective part of the intent of Mitzvot . A couple of these laws are, for example, ‘ Know that God’ exists and ‘Do not put the word of God to the test’.

The objective intent of Mitzvot is based on the preservation, purification and health of the Jewish race. The commandments concerning dietary laws are a form of ancient health regulations! For example, the slaughtering of permitted animals is to be done rapidly, by cutting the throat of the animal with an extremely sharp knife with no serrations in the blade. This is considered the most humane way of dispatch. The goal of this type of slaughter is to get rid of as much blood as possible. Ingesting blood is forbidden. The animal is then hung to permit the evacuation of blood. It is then washed,  salted with kosher salt and cooked well. The USDA has determined that this ritual method of slaughter is so sanitary that kosher slaughterhouses are exempt from USDA regulations.

The Mizvot is divided into many categories i.e., Business practices, Clothing, Marriage, Divorce and Family, Treatment of Gentiles, Court and Judicial etc. There are many more but you get the idea.

Most of these worthy commandments have stood the test of time.  Consider the following ones, ‘Not to sell a Hebrew servant as a slave.,  ‘Not to pass a child through the fire to Molech’.,  (referring to child sacrifice),   ‘Not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together’.,  ‘To make a parapet for your roof’.?? And my favorite, ‘Not to put olive oil in the meal offering of a woman suspected of adultery’.!!! I presume it’s perfectly acceptable to drizzle olive oil on her matzos if you know she is an adulteress!?

Back to the birds. The forbidden birds in Deuteronomy 14:11-20 are either birds of prey or scavengers. As such, they are indiscriminate in their diet, hunt carrion and  cannibalize. They have sharp talons with strong feet for transporting their prey. Their beaks are sharp and hooked for tearing flesh.  God describes, to Ezekiel, a scene of Gog’s slain army.  Hordes of soldiers are scattered about on the mountains of Israel being devoured by (Ezekiel 39:4) “…the ravenous birds of every sort.” Quite a graphic scene made more dramatic by the presence of birds of prey.Bird of Prey by Francois Maurice

In Isaiah 46:11 God curiously refers to Cyrus the Great as a bird of prey “…a ravenous bird from the east”. It seems an incongruous reference to a man who is revered for his benevolence and justice. Cyrus tolerated and respected the culture and religion of the lands he conquered. Ah, you say! ‘Conquered’ implies blood and cruelty. Well, not in his case as when, in October of 539 BC, he annexed Babylonia without spilling a drop of blood. He then freed the Jews of whom 40,000 returned to their homeland. He then financed the rebuilding of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. He doesn’t seem to exhibit the tendencies of birds of prey. Was God implying that Cyrus had the tenacity and single minded intent of a predatory raptor?

Ostrich by Francois Maurice

Ostrich by Francois Maurice

Ostriches are in for some harsh treatment in Job 39:13-18. In a chapter that praises the freedom of the wild ass, the strength of the bull, the fearlessness and strength of the war-horse, the eyesight and flight of the eagle, we see the ostrich laying her eggs out in the open soil.  She is unconcerned that passing beasts will trod on them. She hopes the sun is warm enough to sustain and nurture them. “She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers: her labour is in vain without fear; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding.” The best that can be said about the ostrich in this passage is that they have wings and feathers to which I ask, “Why?” They can’t fly! Lamentations 4:3 equates the ostrich to a breast feeding sea monster! How weird is that? So- we have a strange looking, eight foot tall, three hundred pound bird who can’t fly but who can outrun a horse and kick a pursuer to death. It’s  eye is bigger that it’s brain, it makes great feather dusters and lives in a commune and hates its kids. God is humorous.

Doves are special in the Bible. They are used metaphorically to describe everything from the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus at His baptism (Mark 1:10), “And straightaway coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him”, to the sorrowful murmurings of Queen Huzzab’s handmaidens. (Nahum 2:7), “And Huzzab shall be led away captive, she shall be brought up, and her maids shall lead her as with the voice of doves, tabering upon their breasts.” This magnificent run-on sentence uses a word that poignantly transforms this scene. Used but a single time in the entire Bible, the word tabering, (to beat on a small drum, tabour), infuses the scene with the pathos of the handmaidens who beat their breasts and mourn the captivity of their beloved queen. Doves, who mate for life, are used here to underscore the loyalty shown by the hand maidens. Notice also, that the phrase “the voice of doves” effectively adds another dimension to this passage. Imagine the queen following the handmaidens as naturally as one’s head turns upon hearing the nearby cooing of a pair of doves.

Doves by Francois Maurice

Doves by Francois Maurice

Francois Maurice


Lee’s Addition:

Francois is the author of It’s In The Bible! which was illustrations only. He is currently working of Volume Two. When asked to tell me more about himself so I could introduce him, here are parts of that information:

The article above is “one of 15 or so chapters. They are short-two to four pages- of commentary about a particular Bible passage passage. I illustrate it then analyze the theological message. My first book was It’s In The Bible!! and it was illustrations only. Volume two will have the same name since I own it. I also have ItsInTheBible.org and a Facebook page which is being developed to advertise my book. There will be some church related cartoons and some general commentaries on theological subjects along with study questions. Humor is included.”

“I am a committed Christian, on the vestry and many committees of St. John’s Episcopal in Chula Vista, CA.(Sad Diego area). I run a Bible study group there….I write and draw full time.”

“The article I sent you is not “typical” since it is “theme oriented” rather than Bible passage “in depth” study of what is going on in a particular scene. I am very curious and love to do research.”

“I am not an ornithologist however, so themes explored would be more “general” in nature. As you know there is a lot of bird influence throughout the Bible and a lot of material to be explored.”

I am looking forward to reading more articles from him and I trust you will also. Welcome, Francois.


American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) singing by J Fenton

American Yellow Warbler (Dendroica aestiva) singing by J Fenton

My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. (Psalms 71:23 KJV)

Birds in Christmas Hymns

Birds in Christmas Hymns

Words by Hen­ry J. van Dyke, 1907. Van Dyke wrote this hymn while stay­ing at the home of Har­ry A. Gar­field at Wil­liams Col­lege, Mass­a­chu­setts. It was first pub­lished in the Pres­by­ter­i­an Hymn­al in 1911. It al­so ap­peared in the Po­ems of Hen­ry van Dyke, 1911. Van Dyke wrote:

“These vers­es are sim­ple ex­press­ions of com­mon Christ­ian feel­ings and de­sires in this pre­sent time—hymns of to­day that may be sung to­ge­ther by peo­ple who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of sci­ence will de­stroy re­li­gion, or any re­vo­lu­tion on earth over­throw the king­dom of hea­ven. There­fore this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.”

Music: Hymn to Joy, from the 9th Sym­pho­ny of Lud­wig van Beet­ho­ven; adapt­ed by Ed­ward Hodg­es, 1824

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us sunward in the triumph song of life.


Savannah Sparrow singing by Ray

Savannah Sparrow singing by Ray

More Birds in Hymns

See ~ Christmas Gospel Presentation

Most information from The Cyber Hymnal – Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee


Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) ©WikiC in nest

Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) ©WikiC in nest

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (Philippians 2:6-7 KJV)

Words by Em­i­ly E. El­li­ott, 1864. This hymn was first used at St. Mark’s Church in Bright­on, Eng­land, where El­li­ott’s fa­ther was rec­tor. In 1870, it was pub­lished in the Church Mis­sion­a­ry Ju­ve­nile In­struct­or, which El­li­ott ed­it­ed.

Music: Margaret, Tim­o­thy R. Mat­thews, 1876

Birds in Christmas Hymns

Birds in Christmas Hymns

Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.


O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.


O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.


O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.


O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home,
Saying Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.

My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Starling feeding chicks

Protection and feeding at the nest by Anthony

Em­i­ly E. El­li­ott (1836-1897) – Emily’s fa­ther was Ed­ward Bi­shop El­li­ott, Rec­tor of St. Mark’s Church in Bright­on, and her aunt was hymn­ist Char­lotte El­li­ott. For six years, Em­i­ly served as ed­it­or of The Church Mis­sion­a­ry Ju­ve­nile In­struct­or.

Tim­o­thy R. Mat­thews (1826-1910) – Son of the rec­tor of Colm­worth, Matt­hews at­tend­ed the Bed­ford Gram­mar School and Gon­ville and Cai­us Coll­ege, Cam­bridge (MusB 1853). Or­dained the same year, he be­came pri­vate tu­tor to the fam­i­ly of Rev. Lord Wri­oth­es­ley Rus­sell, a can­on of St. George’s Cha­pel, Wind­sor Cast­le, where he stu­died un­der the or­gan­ist, George El­vey, sub­se­quent­ly a life­long friend.

Matthews served as Cur­ate (1853-1859) and Cur­ate-in-Charge (1859-1869) of St. Ma­ry’s Church, Not­ting­ham. Dur­ing this time he found­ed Not­ting­ham’s Work­ing Men’s In­sti­tute. In 1869, he be­came Rec­tor at North Coates, Lin­coln­shire. He re­tired in 1907 to live with his eld­est son at Tet­ney vi­car­age.

Matthews ed­it­ed the North Coates Sup­ple­ment­al Tune Book and The Vil­lage Or­gan­ist. He com­posed Morn­ing and Ev­en­ing Serv­ices, chants and re­sponses, and earned a rep­u­ta­tion for sim­ple but ef­fect­ive hymn tunes, writ­ing over 100. William How­ard re­quest­ed six tunes from him for a child­ren’s hym­nal, and Mat­thews com­plet­ed them with­in a day. Mat­thews al­so com­posed a Christ­mas car­ol and a few songs. His sons Nor­ton and Ar­thur Per­cy were al­so known as hymn tune com­pos­ers.


More Birds in Hymns

See ~ Wordless Birds

Most information from The Cyber HymnalThou Didst Leave Thy Throne



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