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Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.66,000-140,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population sizes have been estimated at < c.100 breeding pairs, < c.50 individuals on migration and c.50-1,000 wintering individuals in China and < c.100 breeding pairs and < c.50 individuals on migration in Russia (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing or stable (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour Palearctic breeding populations are fully migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992) but may only travel short distances (Snow and Perrins 1998) while other populations are resident and nomadic or partially migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992). In the north of its range the species breeds in the local spring (e.g. from April) but in the tropics the timing of breeding coincides with the rains (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species usually nests in monospecific colonies or in small monospecific groups amidst mixed-species colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When not breeding the species forages singly or in small flocks (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of up to 100 individuals (Hancock et al. 1992) and migrates in flocks of up to 100 individuals (Africa) (Brown et al. 1982, Snow and Perrins 1998). It is most active during the morning and evening (although in coastal areas it forages at low tide regardless of the time of day) (Hancock et al. 1992), and often roosts communally up to 15 km away from feeding areas (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat The species shows a preference for extensive shallow (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (less than 30 cm deep) wetlands with mud, clay or fine sand substrates, generally avoiding waters with rocky substrates, thick vegetation or swift currents (Hancock et al. 1992). It inhabits either fresh, brackish or saline (Hancock et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998) marshes, rivers, lakes, flooded areas and mangrove swamps, especially those with islands for nesting or dense emergent vegetation (e.g. reedbeds) and scattered trees or srubs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (preferably willow Salix spp., oak Quercus spp. or poplar Populus spp.) (Hancock et al. 1992). It may also frequent sheltered marine habitats during the winter such as deltas, estuaries, tidal creeks and coastal lagoons (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet Its diet consists of adult and larval insects (e.g. waterbeetles, dragonflies, caddisflies, locusts and flies), molluscs, crustaceans, worms, leeches, frogs, tadpoles and small fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992) up to 10-15 cm long (Hancock et al. 1992). It may also take algae or small fragments of aquatic plants (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (although these are possibly ingested accidentally with animal matter) (Hancock et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a platform of sticks and vegetation constructed on the ground on islands in lakes and rivers, or alternatively in dense stands of emergent vegetation (e.g. reedbeds) (del Hoyo et al. 1992), bushes, mangroves or deciduous trees (e.g. willow Salix spp., oak Quercus spp. or poplar Populus spp.) (Hancock et al. 1992) up to 5 m above the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species nests in colonies within which neighbouring nests are usually placed 1-2 m apart or touching (Hancock et al. 1992). Breeding colonies are sited within 10-15 km of feeding areas, often much less (although the species may also feed up to 35-40 km away) (Hancock et al. 1992).

The species is threatened by habitat degradation through drainage and pollution (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. chlorinated hydrocarbons) (Hancock et al. 1992), and is especially affected by the disappearance of reed swamps due to agricultural and hydroelectric development (Hancock et al. 1992). Over-fishing and disturbance have caused population declines in Greece (Hancock et al. 1992), and human exploitation of eggs and nestlings for food has threatened the species in the past (Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species is also susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K. and Newman, K. 1982. The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hancock, J. A.; Kushlan, J. A.; Kahl, M. P. 1992. Storks, ibises and spoonbills of the world. Academic Press, London.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Jump to the case study for this species in Wildlife comeback in Europe: The recovery of selected mammal and bird species (Deniet et al. 2003)

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L. & Ashpole, J

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Platalea leucorodia. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises, Spoonbills)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Unknown
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 4,420,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change
- 2015 European Red List assessment