Miami Herald: Written by Jenny Staletovich. March 17, 2017.
Of the many ways used to diagnosis the health of the Everglades, the most bizarrely beautiful by far, with red beady eyes and bald greenish head, is the scarlet-plumed roseate spoonbill nearly wiped off the planet by feather hunters a century ago.
On a blustery morning in Florida Bay earlier this week, two adults and four chicks in training also demonstrated the birds’ tenacity.
As winds whipped the bay in advance of a late-season cold front, the birds repeated an evolutionary recon mission known as a weaning flight. Over and over, the adults spread their cotton candy-colored wings, flapped skyward and hoped the chicks, now about three months old, would follow. With gusts topping 20 mph, the chicks pursued for as long as they could before returning to their swaying perches among the mangroves on South Nest Key to rest. It’s a feat unique to the spoonbills among wading birds and a sight that still dazzles the biologist who has been tracking their movements for nearly 30 years.