White Ibis: This coastal species is white overall with pink facial skin, bill, and legs that turn scarlet during breeding season. Black tips on the primary feathers are only seen in flight. Flies in straight line formation with neck and legs outstretched, roosts high in trees and bushes at night.
Range and Habitat
White Ibis: Prefers coastal salt marshes, swamps, and mangroves. Found along the Gulf Coast, mid-Atlantic coast, and the western coast of Mexico, including the Baja Peninsula. Has become common in some city parks. Breeds as far north as Virginia and may occur casually as far north as New Jersey, the mid-west and Southwest.
The CICONIIFORMES (pronounced sih-KON-ee-ih-FOR-meez) is an order made up of five families that include the herons and egrets, storks, and other wading birds such as the ibises.
The ibis family, Threskiornithidae (pronounced thres-kih-or-NITH-uh-dee), includes thirty-four species of ibis and spoonbills in thirteen genera found on all continents except for Antarctica.
In North America, six species of the Threskiornithidae in four genera occur. The curve-billed ibises and Roseate Spoonbill are members of this family.
Members of this family are mostly known for their long, distinctive bills.
Ibis and spoonbills are fairly large birds with fairly long legs adapted to walking and wading in fields and wetlands. They also have fairly long necks, broad wings, and short tails. Their bills are particularly impressive, long and downcurved in the ibises and spatulate-shaped in spoonbills.
North American members of this family come in a variety of colors for being represented by just six species. The brightest colored species are the Scarlet Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill. The Scarlet Ibis is vivid red with black wingtips while the spoonbill is plumaged in pinks, white, and orange. Bright red colors are also shown by the White Ibis on the face, bill, and legs to highlight its white plumage. Other ibis species in North America have a bit of red on the face and legs but are otherwise plumaged in rich brown, and dark, iridescent green plumage. Immature birds are duller than adults with brown, gray, and white tones dominating their plumage.
Most species of ibis and the Roseate Spoonbill are restricted to coastal marshes in North America and are most common in the southeastern United States. The White-faced Ibis, though, breeds in marshes in the western mountains, sometimes occurring at high elevations.
Most North American species of this family are year-round residents of coastal marshes, or short-distance migrants to Mexico.
Both ibis and spoonbills are very social birds typically found in groups while nesting in colonies and foraging. Ibis species use their long bills to pick crustaceans, frogs and other small wetland creatures out of the vegetation and shallow water as they walk through it. The Roseate Spoonbill also forages as it walks, swinging its bill back and forth in the shallow water of bays, estuaries and wetlands to feel for and grasp prey items similar to those of Ibises.
Ibis species and spoonbils have undergone serious declines in the past as a result of hunting for their plumage. Although most species in North America now have stable populations, they are still sensitive to disturbances at their nesting colonies and drainage of the wetland habitats they need. The White-faced Ibis has declined because of such drainage schemes and may also be threatened by pesticides.
The Glossy Ibis is thought to have spread from Africa to the New World during the nineteenth century and reached the United States via the Caribbean. This species is closely related to the White-faced Ibis and may compete with it for resources.
The sensitive nature of this family to changes in their environment is demonstrated by several ibis and spoonbill species that have become critically endangered in Europe and Asia.