A Second Look at the White Ibis
When I first started taking pictures of birds, I concentrated on the more showy, exciting birds. First, I shot mostly portraits, and now I look for action shots. Herons stabbing a fish, Egrets showing off their fancy plumage, Bitterns stalking their prey. I have told you before I prefer the waders over those cute songbirds. In my adventures, I never went out of my way to photograph the White Ibis. Now a Glossy Ibis or White-faced Ibis would catch my eye, but the American White Ibis is common, abundant and rather plain. Mostly it probes in the mud for crawfish and insects and is often a dirty white.
The White Ibis is large wading bird found along the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America. It also inhabits some South American coastal areas where it interbreeds with the Scarlet Ibis. I would love to see the results of that!
Our White Ibis feed in flocks and maybe because of the pale blue eyes, they seem timid. But I have seen one lower that head and charge another ibis to take over a desirable feeding spot. But mostly, they seem to get along well. They are found in shallow waters, mudflats, marshes, ponds and I read they are now hanging out on golf courses in Florida. Never forget, birds are opportunistic.
In my research I found that
American White Ibises are not faithful to the sites where they breed, and large breeding colonies composed of ten thousand birds or more can congregate and disband in one or two breeding seasons. Breeding populations across its range have fluctuated greatly with wholesale movement between states. Until the 1940s, the species only bred in large numbers in Florida, mostly within the Everglades. Drought conditions elsewhere in the United States led to over 400,000 American White Ibis breeding there in the 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s, large colonies appeared in Alabama, Louisiana, and then North and South Carolina and the Gulf Coast of Florida, and finally Texas in the 1970s. Then, between the 1970s and early 1990s, breeding colonies declined and disappeared in South Carolina and Florida, and greatly increased in Louisiana, and North Carolina. Colonies last between one and seventeen years, their longevity related to size and quality of nearby wetlands.
This one is preening with that giant downturned bill. When close to breeding season (now) the legs, face and bill are a bright red-pink. And the end of the bill turns black; although that is hard to see since most of the time it is covered with mud. I read that the males and females are slightly different sizes, but the differences are not that apparent. At least not to me.
They make a lot of racket when foraging and when disturbed. Or maybe just because they like to hear themselves honk.
Did you know the African Sacred Ibis is thought to be the bird the Ancient Egyptians worshipped as Thoth? The Ibis-headed deity was associated with the development of writing among his many powers. Just a little factoid I wanted to share.
They build nests off the ground in trees and lay up to 5 eggs; many of which get eaten by Grackles, Night-herons, snakes or raccoons. Both male and females attend the nestlings. The juveniles are mostly brown with white rumps and under parts. And they look even MOAR homely at that stage. The one above only has some brown left on his neck; he might be in his 3rd year.
American Ibis are so plain; I can not resist doing Fractalius and such on them. Looks better as an illustration.
But then, once in a while you catch one in a nice pose with a decent background and you can think they are rather elegant. The photo above was taken a few weeks ago at Brazos Bend, and you can see how much lighter the bill and legs are compared to the more recent ones shown in the first part of this adventure.
I find myself taking photos of them because they are so plain and overlooked! I even had a nice action shot of one pushing the other off his space, but some of the wings were clipped. Maybe next time. I am paying more attention to them now, who knows what I might see?
And in the feedback I asked for about my blog posts, I learned some of you like birds, but not as much as me. So, for those loyal readers here is a not-bird.
Remember this? The old International Harvester truck looks much different in the Winter when the vines and foliage die away. The logo on the door is painted over but as near as I can figure out it was it says "**vine Services Company Houston". Anyone else have a guess? Or know the history of this truck?
Next week I hope to have a report on the nesting birds at High Island. It is time: I hear the Roseate Spoonbills are building nests now. So, what do you think of the White Ibis? Do you see them on the golf courses? Let me know in the comments; just click the balloon-looking icon and sign in as a Guest with any name you choose.