Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia


Justification of Red List Category
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.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.63,000-65,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 10,200-15,200 pairs, which equates to 20,400-30,500 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing or stable (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).


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). Poaching and collisions with overhead electricity cables are the main non-natural causes of death during migration (Triplet et al. 2008). The species is also susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed in Appendix II of CITES, Annex I of the EU Birds Directive, Annex II of the Bern Convention, Annex II of the Convention on Migratory Species, under which it is covered by the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). The following information refers to the species's European range only: An International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the Eurasian Spoonbill was published in 2008 (AEWA technical series no 35) (Triplet et al. 2008). An International Species Action Plan is in place and national or regional Special Action Plans and/or specialist working groups are in place in some countries (Netherlands, Spain, Hungary, Romania, Serbia). Systematic monitoring occurs in most countries in Europe, including an international colour ringing scheme. Wetland restoration and management of breeding colonies and feeding sites is in place in France, Spain, Croatia and Slovakia.

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Measures should be put in place to monitor breeding, migrating, wintering numbers, age composition and ecological changes at key sites; Establish non-intrusion zones around colonies; Sustainably manage wetland areas.


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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Platalea leucorodia. Downloaded from on 24/06/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/06/2019.