Tuesday, 1 March 2011


The Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) was a very scarce bird in Extremadura until a couple of decades ago. Nowadays it breeds and regularly winters and turns up everywhere on migration, with records from over one hundred different sites. Its breeding in Extremadura has been monitored quite closely from the word go but few studies have been made of wintering Spoonbills; this is quite possibly the first article published.

Spoonbills began to winter in Extremadura fairly recently. Little is known about it because the peak of wintering birds in December falls outside the normal wildfowl count season in January. For this reason the Spanish Spoonbill Monitoring Group (GRUSEC) organise a December Spoonbill count every year. The following graph has been drawn up from these counts plus records from the Ornithological Yearbooks of Extremadura.

The apparent fluctuation is due mainly to varying observer effort from one count to another. Even so the graphs do show a clear upward trend. In fact a complete regional count has never been carried out. The normal procedure is to visit certain areas they are known to be fond of and then feed in other one-off observations. Spoonbills tend to move about widely during the day to feed and then come together in flocks to rest, normally at dusk. Different figures may therefore be obtained for the same site at different times of day. For this reason some counts almost certainly fall well short of the real number.

The most regular wintering site is Los Arenales (Cáceres), with records every winter from 2005 to 2010 and flocks of 5 to 21 birds. These birds also roam over nearby wetlands such as El Ancho (Arroyo de la Luz). The second most important site is Los Canchales reservoir, with records in five winters from 1998 to 2010 and a peak of 10 birds. There are also December records in another six sites: two in the River Alagón catchment area(Portaje reservoir and Guijo de Coria), two from Campo Arañuelo (Lugar Nuevo in Peraleda de la Mata and Arrocampo reservoir), two in Vegas Altas (Sierra Brava and Cubilar reservoirs) and one in Badajoz (Valdesequera). In the six first sites mentioned Spoonbill presence in December is patchy, with records of 1 to 6 birds on some days. December flocks of 18 have been recorded in Valdesequera, where the presence is more continuous and the birds tend to spread out in nearby wetlands during the day, as in Los Arenales. There is no information on previous years from Valdesequera, so wintering birds there might have gone unnoticed beforehand.
Extremadura's importance on a national scale is very low: 1% in 2009 and 4% in 2010; it is notable, however, as the only inland wintering site. In December 2009 and 2010 856 and 861 Spoonbills were counted in Spain, Andalucía weighing in with 71% and Galicia with 18%. Wintering birds are also regular on the Cantabrian coast, Rías Baixas and Cádiz Bay, with occasional records from the Mediterranean coast. The most important sites are Doñana (peak of 595 birds), El Grove (A Coruña, peak of 157) and Santoña (Cantabria, peak of 62).
Results of Extremadura's December Spoonbill counts *:
- 2007: 22 birds. Los Arenales (15), Peraleda de la Mata (6), Arrocampo (1).
- 2008: 26 birds. Los Arenales (21), Portaje reservoir(3), Guijo de Coria (1), Galisteo (1).
- 2009: 8 birds. Los Arenales (6), Los Canchales (2).
- 2010: 32 birds. Valdesequera (18), Los Arenales (13), Portaje (1).
* Collaborators: Carlos Fernández, Javier Caballero, Flore Carrero, Rafael Parra, Ángel Sánchez, Ángel Luis Sánchez, Emilio Costillo, Jesús Solana, Javier Briz, Sergio Mayordomo and Javier Prieta.
- GRUSEC. Censos invernales: 2009, 2009, 2010, 2010.
- Extremadura Birds Database. J. Prieta and S. Mayordomo.