European spoonbill

European Spoonbill

©Amy Lewis

Spoonbills feeding

©David Tipling/2020VISION

Spoonbill in flight

©David Tipling/2020VISION

European spoonbill

Scientific name: Platalea leucorodia
The distinctive sight of a spoonbill is becoming increasingly common in the east and southwest of England, with colonies of breeding birds now established.

Species information


Length: 78-85cm Wingspan: 1.2m Weight: 1.1-1.9kg

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review and listed under CITES Appendix II. Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The spoonbill is a relative of the ibises, a group of long-legged birds with curved bills. Almost as big as a grey heron, the spoonbill feeds on shrimps and other aquatic invertebrates which it catches while sweeping its bizarre, spoon-shaped bill from side to side in the water. Seen most regularly in Britain at coastal sites in the east and south-west, it mainly breeds in southern Europe and North Africa and as far east as India and China. In recent years breeding birds have become established in England.

How to identify

A tall, white bird, the spoonbill is easily recognised by its long, black, spoon-shaped bill. During the breeding season, adults develop some yellow on their bill tip and breast along with a crest of white feathers.


A rare breeder and uncommon visitor, mostly to the coasts of East Anglia, southern England, South Wales and North West England.

Did you know?

There are six species of spoonbill in the world: one in East Asia, one in Africa, one in the Americas, two species in Australia and the European spoonbill.

How people can help

Most populations of the European spoonbill are declining, threatened by habitat loss, pollution, human disturbance and egg collection. The Wildlife Trusts are working closely with farmers and landowners, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of a 'Living Landscape': a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across town and country, which are good for both wildlife and people. You can support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.