Spoonbills nest in Essex for the first time

Spoonbills nest in Essex for the first time

Photo: David Tipling/2020VISION

Rare birds successfully raise chicks at Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve

A family of spoonbills have successfully nested and raised a brood at Abberton Reservoir, a first for the county. Spoonbills are now regular summer visitors to the area but never before has a breeding pair established.

A unique looking relative of the ibis, a group of long-legged birds with curved bills, the spoonbill is named after its bizarre spatula-like bill. Almost as big as a grey heron, this tall, white bird feeds on shrimps and other aquatic invertebrates which they catch by sweeping their distinctive bill, packed full of sensors, from side to side in the water.

Katie Goldsbrough, the Assistant Ranger at Essex Wildlife Trust’s Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park said: “This is really exciting news for the reserve and for Essex. First observed constructing a nest this June at the Layer Breton causeway in Abberton, the chicks have now hatched and have been doing well thanks to their doting parents.”

A once uncommon visitor, this Amber List species can be found most regularly at coastal sites in the east and south-west of Britain. Recorded breeding in East Anglia during Medieval times, they have since not bred in Britain for over 300 years until a small colony was discovered on the Norfolk coast in 2010. Typically breeding in southern Europe and North Africa, the birds are now becoming more established in England with birds now witnessed nesting in Suffolk, Dorset and for the first time, Essex.

Katie continued: “It has been amazing watching the chicks grow among the breeding herons and little egrets, high up in the willow trees. This special occurrence highlights the amazing conservation value of Abberton Reservoir and hopefully in future years it will become a place for an established breeding population.”

Find out more about the Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve and plan your next adventure by visiting the Abberton Reservoir page. 

Spoonbills at Abberton

Photo: Bob Covey