News & Politics

Two Rare Birds—Roseate Spoonbills—Have Been Hanging Out in DC Again

Birders and photographers have been flocking to see them at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Two roseate spoonbills inside the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Photograph courtesy of Ameya Thatte.

Blooming water lilies aren’t the only pink beauties drawing people to Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens right now. Two roseate spoonbills—tall, pale pink birds with, as their name implies, spoon-shaped bills—have also been wading in the park’s marsh for a few weeks now, drawing the attention of birders and photographers who have been flocking to see them.

The birds, which Audubon calls “gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close,” are common in coastal Florida and Texas. While they’re known to wander north—some have been reported as far north as Michigan—it’s quite rare to see the birds inside the District. Their first reported spotting in DC was in 2021.

Just why they’ve migrated here is not totally clear, although Daniel Rauch, a DC Department of Energy & Environment wildlife biologist, says there are a couple theories. One theory posits that larger numbers of spoonbill populations in the south have pushed some to search for food in farther places with less competition. Another theory supposes that rain and winds could also be pushing them northward, said Rauch, who, like other birders, affectionately calls them “spoonies.”

In addition to the two at Kenilworth, Rauch says a few other spoonbills have been seen in the area, including south of Alexandria near Dyke Marsh and another on a person’s private pond in Fairfax County. For those who want to see the tropical birds for themselves, the Kenilworth pair can be seen from the farthest end of the park’s boardwalk trail (where you’re likely to also spot green heron and great white egrets).


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Jessica Ruf
Assistant Editor