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Wild Spoonbills Nest at Lowry Park Zoo

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There's a nest with four Roseate Spoonbill chicks at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, but these guys aren't 'on the inventory', so to speak: a pair of wild Spoonbills chose to nest right outside of the zoo's Spoonbill exhibit!

Born earlier this month, all four chicks have survived and are growing fast. At just six weeks old, the chicks will fledge and leave the nest. But for now, they're still losing their fuzzy down and starting to show their first flight feathers. Developing flight feathers are at first surrounded by a protective sheath made of keratin, which the bird eventually removes by preening, allowing the feather to continue its development. In the photos below, these new pinfeathers look a bit like plastic straws. 

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Photo credits: Lowry Park Zoo

See and learn more after the fold.

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Roseate Spoonbills are wading birds that live in coastal wetland regions of South America, the Caribbean, Central America and the Gulf Coast. They use their spoon-shaped bills to probe in mud for small invertebrates, amphibians and fish. Roseate Spoonbills feed and travel together in flocks that were once targeted by hunters for their beautiful pink feathers. By the 1930s, these birds were at high risk of being decimated in order to decorate ladies' hats. Now a protected species, Roseate Spoonbills have rebounded and are listed by the IUCN as a species of least concern.