STATUS: Breeder. Fairly common in spring, summer, and fall in Gulf Coast region, but uncommon in winter. Uncommon in spring, summer, and fall in Inland Coastal Plain and occasional in winter. Rare in summer and fall in Tennessee Valley and Mountain regions and occasional in spring and fall. Low Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: The white ibis has a solid white body except for black wing tips. Their head, bill, and legs are a vivid red color. The size of their long, curvy bills vary, and so does their body size. Adults weigh around two pounds, are about 24.5 inches in length, and have a wingspan of approximately 40 inches. White ibises can be commonly seen flying in large “V” type formations.
DISTRIBUTION: In North America, the white ibis can be found from coastal Louisiana east along the Gulf of Mexico and into inland Florida. They are also occasionally found as far north as Virginia and west to Texas. Central America, the Caribbean, and South America are also places the white ibis calls home.
HABITAT: Coastal marshes, swamps, wooded wetlands, and mangroves are areas where the white ibis can be found.
FEEDING HABITS: They sweep their bill in the water from side to side in order to collect their prey. White ibises feed primarily on fish, insects, crabs, crayfish, frogs, snails, and snakes. In order to trick crayfish out of their burrow, they push dirt in the burrow with their bill, and when the crayfish responds by carrying the dirt to the entrance, it is swiftly eaten by the ibis. The crayfish aquaculture industry in south central and southwestern Louisiana views them as harmful pests.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Nesting usually occurs from March to August in shrubs, trees, or grass clumps from ground level to around 50 feet. Nests are round and constructed with leaves, sticks, and roots. Eggs are greenish in color with brown, black, and reddish spots. Clutches usually consist of two or three eggs that are incubated for 22 days. Breeding colonies contain thousands of nests. These colonies are most often found in central and southern Florida.
Kaufman, Kenn. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
Kushlan, J. A. and K. L. Bildstein. 1992. The Birds of North America, No.9
AUTHOR: Frank Allen, Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, December, 2007