18 x 30 in. | 45.7 x 76.2 cm – oil on panel, painted with knives
Spoonbills feed in shallow water by sweeping their partly opened bill from side to side, snapping it shut when an insect, tiny fish, crab or shrimp touches the inside of the bill.
We saw this pair wading through the shallows between the mangrove islands in the Florida Everglades National Park. Some species of Spoonbills reproduce in large flocks but most species mate with a single partner each breeding season and choose a new partner for the next season. Although we don’t know which of these species we have painted, they do look like a happy couple.
A mangrove is not the name of a specific tree or shrub. It’s a name given to several plants that grow in shallow coastal waters. The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is the dominant plant in this painting. Red Mangroves have what are called “prop roots” that grow out of the trunk and into the water. This growth pattern creates shallow water by trapping sand and mud so storms cannot wash it away. And the tangle of roots provides a safe habitat for the tiny organisms that are the Spoonbill’s food.
“Prop roots” are illustrated by the young red mangrove on the right side of the painting. It looks as though it is standing on stilts. In time, this little tree may be the beginning of a new island.
On slightly higher ground, further from the water, the black and white mangroves live. You can see the white mangroves sticking out of the top of the island.
It was a tranquil and beautiful evening. The sun had already set, leaving behind a soft, pink glow to the clouds and reflections in the water as if it were borrowing color from the brilliant pink feathers of the spoonbills.