Photo of the Week: Roseate Spoonbill, Rare Bird and First State Record for Michigan

After a long day of rain, imagine you’re out with your fiance at a nearby marsh when you spot an unusual colored bird.

A large pink wading bird.

A Roseate Spoonbill.

In Michigan.

That’s not usual.

In the United States, the Roseate Spoonbill is usually found in the southeast. Almost a thousand miles away.

But that’s what a local couple found in Saline, Michigan this weekend.

Which has the birding community throughout Michigan and nearby states  abuzz with the news about the Roseate Spoonbill in Washtenaw County.

Memories of the Spotted Redshank west of Ann Arbor, Ivory Gull in Flint, and Shiny Cowbird at Whitefish Point came to mind when I read about the pink wading bird.

They are all vagrants (birds found outside of their typical range).

Along with hundreds of other birdwatchers, I made the journey in the early morning to the birding location to see the bird.

Roseate Spoonbill

While I’ve seen the Roseate Spoonbill before, it’s not a bird you would typically see outside of a warm, tropical area.

A wading bird that breeds along the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and lives year-found in South America, the Roseate Spoonbill is often seen in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.

Not in northern areas of the United States.

Which is why birdwatchers in the Midwest are making the pilgrimage to southeast Michigan to catch a glimpse of the bird.

From the Michigan birding list, I learned this is the first sighting of a Roseate Spoonbill in Michigan; it’s a state record!

When I saw it, the bird was associating with a Great Egret on a tree snag near the shoreline.

According to The Saline Post, Department of Natural Resources biologists are wondering if the bird escaped from a local zoo.

Other birders are pointing to a similar occurrence in 2018, when Roseate Spoonbills were spotted in Quebec, Maine, and Connecticut.

No one knows (yet) how the bird found its way to Michigan.

We do know it’s a juvenile bird: note the pale pink color and feathered head.

Adult Roseate Spoonbills are almost entirely pink, with scarlet wing patches, and a bare pale-green head.

Last time I saw a Roseate Spoonbill was in 2017 at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on the east coast of Florida, one of its typical locations.

Never thought I would see a Roseate Spoonbill in Michigan.

July 21, 2021 Update

The Roseate Spoonbill in Saline, Michigan is not the only Spoonbill found  outside its normal range this summer.

From my research on eBird, and with the help of another birder, I learned Roseate Spoonbills have been found this month (July 2021) in:

  1. Maryland
  2. Virginia (only 5 miles from the Maryland bird, so possibly the same bird)
  3. New York
  4. Pennsylvania
Photo of author

About the Author

Deborah Edwards-Onoro helps small businesses, consultants, nonprofits, and higher ed with creative and distinctive websites. Deborah shares her expertise with web design, user experience, and accessibility on her blog, social media, and at meetup events. As organizer of Refresh Detroit, West Metro Detroit WordPress, and Metro Detroit WordPress, she encourages members to share their knowledge and experiences. In her free time, you'll find her birding, shooting photos, reading, or watching tennis.

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