Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

We need your help!

How do young inexperienced spoonbills know where to go during their first southward migration? Do they use an innate navigational system, or do they learn the route by following experienced adults? We need your help to answer this question! 

These two juveniles were ringed as nestlings on 11 May 2019 in the Dutch Delta and observed on 15 June 2019.

How can you help?

As spoonbills travel across a huge geographical range during migration and in winter, it is very difficult (often impossible) for us to be at the right place at the right time to collect information on the environment of the transmitted birds. This is where your help would be greatly appreciated!


If you see a spoonbill with a transmitter on its back, we would be very happy if you could try to collect (some of) the following information:

  • Date, place and time
  • Is the bird alone or in a group?
  • What is the bird doing? (foraging, walking, resting, flying…)
  • What is the colourcode of the transmitted bird (in case several transmitted birds are in the same area)?
  • Does the bird appear 'fit'? (a photo would really help, otherwise please try to describe whether the bird looks healthy or skinny)
  • If the bird is foraging, it would be really useful to have an estimate of prey intake rate. To do so, please try to record the number of prey that the bird swallows during one minute. You can repeat this as often as you want (the more, the better).

Group information

  • How many other spoonbills are present (approximately)?
  • How many juvenile (1st year), subadult (2nd and 3rd year) and adult spoonbills are in the group? Juvenile spoonbills can be recognized by their pale greyish bill (first picture) and black wingtips (mainly visible in flight). Adult birds have no black wingtips and a black bill with a distinct yellow tip. Subadult birds (2nd and 3rd year birds) have a darker bill than the juveniles, with a yellowish (but still vague) tip of the bill and often still black wingtips. In case it is difficult to distinguish between juveniles (1st year) and subadults (2nd or 3rd year), then try to at least distinguish adults from immatures (as in the second picture).
  • What are the colour codes of other spoonbills in the group? 


  • What type of habitat is the spoonbill in? (again, a photo would be great)
  • Is it a freshwater, brackish or marine habitat?
  • If the spoonbills are foraging, what are they feeding upon?​​​​​

You can send your observations, or any questions or remarks, to Tamar Lok.