Platalea leucorodia (Linnaeus, 1758) NB SPOON 1440
Family: Pelecaniformes > Threskiornithidae

Spoonbill, Paul Hillion

Spoonbill is one of a number of species expanding their breeding range northwards as a result of climate change, and the species is becoming a more familiar sight to birdwatchers.

Spoonbills breed in very small numbers at just a handful of locations in England, the most successful of which is a colony on the north Norfolk coast. Spoonbills tend to breed in mixed colonies, alongside herons and inland-breeding Cormorants. In summer plumage the yellow tip to the adult’s spoon-shaped bill and the crest plumes make this a very attractive bird.

Atlas data highlight the current southerly distribution in Britain & Ireland, particularly evident in the winter months.


Spoonbill identification is usually straightforward.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Spoonbill bred in southern England until the 17th century and has successfully re-colonised the UK over the course of the last decade, following on from the first successful modern-day breeding attempt in 1999 (Ogilvie et al. 2001). The main stronghold of the species is at Holkham in Norfolk where breeding first occurred in 2010 and the number of breeding pairs had risen to 28 in 2020 (Bloomfield 2021). Since the establishment of the colony at Holkham, breeding has occurred at several other sites across the UK.


Spoonbill is a rare breeding bird in Britain. At the time of Bird Atlas 2007–11 breeding was confirmed in two 10-km squares, in Dumfries & Galloway and in Norfolk. They are widely distributed in winter across a range of mostly coastal sites in southern Britain.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



Spoonbill was formerly a scarce summer visitor, but is now an expanding breeder and can also be seen throughout the winter at some southern locations.

Weekly occurence of Spoonbill from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Spoonbill ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Spoonbill, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



Sample sizes are too small to report Biometrics for this species.

Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Gob-leathann
Welsh: Llwybig
Catalan: becplaner comú
Czech: kolpík bílý
Danish: Skestork
Dutch: Lepelaar
Estonian: luitsnokk-iibis
Finnish: kapustahaikara
French: Spatule blanche
German: Löffler
Hungarian: kanalasgém
Icelandic: Flatnefur
Irish: Leitheadach
Italian: Spatola
Latvian: karošknabis
Lithuanian: paprastoji girnove
Norwegian: Skjestork
Polish: warzecha (zwyczajna)
Portuguese: colhereiro-europeu
Slovak: lyžiciar biely
Slovenian: žlicarka
Spanish: Espátula común
Swedish: skedstork


Interpretation and scientific publications about Spoonbill from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The re-colonisation of the UK follows a range expansion across Europe. The reasons for this are unclear although it is possible that climate change may have been a factor. In the Netherlands, it has been suggested that local population growth may have levelled off at some sites as a result of density dependent effects caused by limited food supply (Oudman et al. 2017), which may potentially be a driver of the ongoing range expansion.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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