Eudocimus albus Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
SPECIES OF SPECIAL CONCERN
White ibis are medium-sized wading birds with a distinctive down-curved pink bill. The adult plumage is white, immature and juveniles are blotchy-white and brown. White ibis often feed and nest near humans, and are regularly seen probing for food on golf courses, lawns and in retention ponds. Natural foraging areas include bottomland hardwood and cypress swamps, riverbanks, mangrove swamps and mudflats.
Adults can excrete salt through a nasal salt gland. Although white ibis commonly feed in brackish and saltwater environments, successful breeding is dependent on access to freshwater feeding areas. Ibis are tactile feeders and can feed effectively in muddy waters and densely vegetated swamps. They feed primarily on aquatic arthropods, especially crayfish and insects.
Nesting colonies are usually surrounded by water, as nests are vulnerable to predators such as raccoons and opossums. Adult birds will fly as far as 30 km from the nest to collect food for their young.
Ibis foraging and breeding habitat has declined significantly in the last 50 years. In the 1930’s and 1940’s it was not uncommon to see flocks of white ibis numbering in the thousands. Today, breeding white ibis have declined by 95% in southern Florida due to hydrological changes in the Everglades.
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