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White Ibis

A medium-sized wading bird species with a distinctive all-white plumage, a long, curved bill, and black wingtips. It is found in wetlands and coastal habitats throughout much of the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and parts of Central and South America. It is known for its habit of probing in shallow water or mud for crustaceans, insects, and small fish.

Distinctively decked out with red legs and bill, white plumage with black wingtips, and occurring in large nesting colonies of up to 20,000 or more pairs, the White Ibis can provide memorable observation opportunities. Nomadic wanderings after the breeding season expand the area in which one might hope to see a White Ibis.

White Ibis typically begin breeding at age two, and they frequently change breeding colony locations from year to year. Poor foraging conditions can result in very unsuccessful breeding seasons. White Ibis have been known to live over sixteen years in the wild.

Description of the White Ibis

White Ibis
white ibis


The White Ibis is a long-legged , long-necked wading bird with a long, decurved bill. Its plumage is white and its legs and bill are reddish. Small black wingtips are visible in flight.  Length: 24 in.  Wingspan: 42 in.

Visit the Bent Life History page for extensive additional information.


White Ibis

White Ibis


Sexes are similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles are mostly brownish above with brown streaking on the neck.

white ibis


Marshes, mudflats, and rice fields.


Crustaceans, snails, frogs, and fish.


Forages by walking or wading and probing with its bill.


Resident in the southeastern U.S. and coastal Mexico. Also occurs in South America.

Fun Facts

White Ibis are nomadic, and don’t always return to the same breeding areas in subsequent years.

White Ibis nest in colonies, but each pair defends a small area around the nest site.


A “hunk-hunk-hunk” call is given.

Similar Species

  • Not easily confused with other species. White-faced and Glossy Ibis have dark underparts in all plumages.
Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


The nest is a platform of sticks placed in a tree.

Eggs: 2 to 3.
Color: Olive of buff with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:  
– Young hatch at 21 days.
– Young fledge (leave the nest) in 28-42 days after hatching but remain with the adults for some time.

Bent Life History of the White Ibis

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the White Ibis – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.

GUARA ALBA (Linnaeus)

The sluggish upper waters of the St. Johns River in Florida are spread out into extensive marshes, broad lakes, and small ponds, choked with water hyacinths, “lettuce,” and “bonnets,” and dotted with floating boggy islets or more substantial islands overgrown with willow thickets. Here we found a paradise for water birds, many miles from the haunts of man, in which Florida ducks and various species of herons and gallinules were breeding in security. It was a joy to watch the graoeful aerial evolutions of the stately wood ibises and to mark the morning and evening flights of the white ibises between their feeding ground and their rookeries in distant swampy thickets. Sometimes in large, loose flocks and sometimes in long, straggling lines, they were always recognizable ~y their snowy whiteness and their rapid wing beats. Wherever we went in southern Florida we frequently found them on inland lakes and streams, feeding in the shallow, muddy waters, or flying out ahead of us as we navigated the narrow creeks in the mangrove swamps. Once I suprised a large flock of them in a little sunlit, muddy pool in a big cypress swamp; they were feeding on the muddy shores, dozing on the fallen logs or preening their feathers as they sat on the stumps and the branches of the surrounding trees; what a cloud of dazzling whiteness and what a clatter of many black-tipped wings, as they all rose and went dodging off among the trees.

But, perhaps, my most interesting experience with the white ibis was in Texas, in 1923, where after much effort we succeeded in locating a big breeding rookery in Victoria County. Somewhere in the valley of the Guadalupe River, we had heard, was a colony of this species. With the help of what local talent we could find, we explored the swamp and bayou forests along the river, where the large cypress, tupelo, gum, water oak, and magnolia trees were draped in long festoons of Spanish moss; we skirted the borders of numerous lakes and open marshes; and we penetrated the dense marshy thickets of willows, button-bushes, huisache, and other brush, wading through miles of muddy water and fighting our way through thorny tangles. Frequentlywe saw the ibises flying over us, but always they went on beyond us to some distant point, tolling us on and on, deeper and deeper into the recesses of an immense tract of endless swamps, streams, and ponds. By taking observations from the tops of the highest trees we could find, we finally got their bearings from several directions and located their rookery about 3 miles away. Apparently their feeding grounds were scattered all over this big tract, in the more open marshes and meadows. Birds were constantly flying to and fro between their feeding grounds and their breeding rookery, but towards dark their movements were all in the direction of the latter. We eventually found the rookery, to which I shall refer later.

Courtship: I have never seen the courtship of this species, nor can I find anything about it in print. As the breeding season approaches, the bill, face, gular pouch, and legs of the male, which at other seasons are dull flesh color, become deep, brilliant red in color and form a striking contrast with the white plumage. Evidently a decided distention of the gular pouch forms an important part of the nuptial display. Audubon (1840) says: “The males at this season have the gular pouch of a rich orange color, and somewhat resembling in shape that of the frigate pelican, although proportionally less.” C. J. Pennock refers to this twice in his notes sent to me on the habits of this species in Florida. On April 1, 1917, the birds were apparently mating and were indulging in a series of outlandish noises; watching them at a distance of 40 or 50 feet, with a pair of good glasses, it appeared that the males distended the gular pouch to the size of “a good-sized lemon” and contracted it again as they uttered “their dulcet notes” he describes the color of it as “rich deep vermilion or Turkey red.” Again on May 2~, 1917, he observed another bird, within 20 feet, make a similar display and estimated that the pouch extended about an inch and a half below the bill, “fiery red in color, the bill, face and legs being of the same color.”

Nestimg: Audubon (1840) gives a description of an interesting colony which he found on an island 6 miles from Cape Sable, Florida. Besides the ibises there were:

Breeding there the brown pelican, the purple, the Louisiana, the white, and the green herons, two species of gallinule, the cardinal grosbeak, crows, and pigeons. The vegetation consists of a few tall Inangroves, thousands of wild plum trees, several species of cactus, some of them nearly as thick as a man’s body, and more than 20 feet high, different sorts of smilax, grape vines, cane, palmettoes, Spanish bayonets, and the rankest nettles I ever saw. As we entered that well-known place, we saw nests on every bush, cactus, or tree. Whether the number was one thousand or ten I can not say, but this I well know: I counted 47 on a single plum tree. These nests of the white ibis measure about 15 inches in their greatest diameter, and are formed of dry twigs intermixed with fibrous roots and green branches of the trees growing on the island, which this bird easily breaks with its bill; the interior, which is flat, being finished with leaves of the cane and some other plants.

On my two visits to Cape Sable in 1903 and 1908 we found no signs of this rookery and no island that answered his description. Most of the colonies of white ibises that I have seen have been in fresh-water lakes or marshes at some distance from the coast. My first experience with the nesting habits of this species was in the great Cuthbert rookery in Monroe County, Fla., to which I have made two visits, and which I have fully described under the preceding species. As we approached the little island the ibises arose in &~ great white cloud from the red mangroves and circled about ovei our heads, uttering their peculiar grunting notes of protest. We estimated that there were about 1,000 ibises in the colony. They soon settled down into the trees again when we landed and were constantly peering at us through the foliage while we were examining their nests. The ibises’ nests occupied the intermediate belt, on the outer edge of the larger trees on the dry land and on the inner edge of the red mangroves over the mud and shallow water, the interior of the island being occupied by the herons and the outer edge of the mangroves by the cormorants. The nests were rather closely grouped, at heights varying from 8 to 15 feet on the horizontal branches of the mangroves, often on very slender branches; only a few were placed in the white “buttonwoods .” They were very carelessly and loosely made of dry and green leaves of the mangroves, held together with a few small sticks and lined with fresh green leaves. The nests are probably added to as the eggs are laid or as incubation advances. The nests which contained only one egg were very small, flimsy structures, hardly large enough to hold the egg, often measuring only six inches across, while those with three eggs were larger, 10 inches or more across, and better made. They generally lay four eggs, and in such cases have large and well-built nests. At the time of our visit, May 1, 1903, the ibises in this rookery were only just beginning to lay, as most of the nests contained one or two eggs, none more than three, and all the eggs we collected were fresh. This was rather remarkable, considering that 15 days later, at Alligator Lake, where these ibises were breeding in immense numbers, they had young of all ages, many of them able to fly.

On the west coast of Florida, in Pinellas County, I found two breeding colonies, which I visited several times during the spring of 1925. A small colony of 60 or 76 pairs occupied a small island in Holmes Pond, about 3 miles north of Clearwater. This is a marshy pond overgrown with pickerel weed and arrowhead around the border, and with “bonnets’ (Ny’mphaea) nnd white pond lilies in the deeper portions; there are a few boggy islands in it covered with small trees and bushes and some scattered patches of saw grass.

When Mr. Baynard first showed me this pond, on December 27, 1924, no ibises were seen or even mentioned; so I was surprised to find on my next visit, on April 7, a fine little colony established there and well along with its nesting. I waded out to the island in water more than waist deep and found an interesting little mixed colony of Ward, little blue, Louisiana, and black crowned night herons among which the ibises were nesting. It was a treacherous, boggy, half-floating island, thickly overgrown with large elders (the largest I have ever seen), willows, bays, wax myrtles, and a tangle of small bushes and vines. The nests of the ibises were placed at the lower levels, from 6 to 10 feet above the mud or water, and were similar in construction to those described above. Some of the nests were not yet finished, some held incomplete sets and some had three or four eggs. I visited this colony again on April 22, when some of the nests contained small young.

One of the largest and most prosperous colonies of Florida water birds that I have ever seen is on a large island known as Bird Key, in Boca Ceiga Bay, Pinellas County. It is now permanently established as a United States Bird Reservation, under the auspices of the Biological Survey, and is carefully guarded by an efficient warden, Harold Bennett. The whole island is heavily and thickly wooded with red and black mangroves, buttonwoods, willows, bays, and other trees and shrubs; the principal forest growth is made up of large black mangreves, many of which are 25 or 30 feet high and some higher. I made seven trips to this rookery during the winter and and spring of 1924 and 1925. When Mr. Bennett first took me to the island, on December 23, very few birds were in evidence, except that a number of Ward herons were already nesting in the tops of the tallest trees; they increased in numbers later. I did not visit the island again until March 11, when I found things in full swing; thousands of American egrets were well along with their nesting and apparently all had eggs; the Florida cormorants were still more abundant and were busy with their courtships and nest building in the tops of the tall black mangroves; the Ward heron’s nests mostly contained young; and a small colony of yellow-crowned night herons, in another part of the island, were building their nests. Only a few white ibises were seen, feeding in the muddy pond holes or flying over. they had not yet begun nesting. It was not until April 7 that we found the ibises well started with their nesting; they were located in another portion of the island, where there were several muddy ponds surrounded by red mangroves of small or medium size and where the muddy soil was covered with a foot or so of water at high tide. Many nests were in process of construction and some held one or two eggs. The nests were typical of the species, placed at low elevations in the smaller red mangroves, closely grouped and poorly made of twigs and green leaves of the mangroves. Surrounding them aiid mixed with them to a certain extent were the nests of large numbers of Louisiana herons and a few snowy egrets. I twice saw two rose. ate spoonbills in their vicinity, but could find no nest. A few little blue, green, and black-crowned night herons were also seen on the island. Brown pelicans were first seen building their nests, on the flat tops of the low mangroves, on April 14, and on April 21 some of them had eggs. On the latter date some of the ibises had sniaii young i~ the nests, peeping loudly like young chickens. I was unable to visit this most interesting rookery again, but hope it will continue to flourish.

The northernmost breeding colony of white ibises that 1 have ever heard of was discovered by that veteran ornithologist, Arthur T. Wayne (1922), on May 20, 1922, in Charleston County, South Carolina. It was “in a heavily wooded reservoir of cypress trees in a large swamp known as Penny Dam Backwater. “Nests were placed in practically every cypress bush, one small bush containing five, each of which held from two to three eggs. All the nests were built in small cypress trees or bushes over water varying from 3 to 4 feet in depth.” In describing the nests he says:

The foundation in many cases consisted of Spanish moss (Dendropogon usneoides) lined with this material in the gray (living) state together with cyress twigs in leaf, and with a base and support of dead cypress twigs arranged in a circular manner. A typical nest measures from out to out 2 feet, and is circular in outline.

Besides the ibises, there were breeding in the rookery water-turkeys, American egrets in large numbers, Louisiana herons, little blue herons, black-crowned night herons, and grackles. Although Mr. Wayne had hunted through this swamp practically every season for the past 30 years, he had never found the white ibises nesting here before.

Eggs: The white ibis lays ordinarily four eggs, sometimes only three or even two and very rarely five. Average eggs vary in shape from ovate to elliptical ovate; extremes are blunt, short ovate or elongate ovate. The shell is smooth or finely granulated and without any gloss. The ground color is usually bluish or greenish white, varying in the brightest specimens from “pale olivine” to “pale glaucous-green~~; in some eggs the ground color is pale buff, from “cream buff” to “pale olive buff.” The eggs are usually handsomely marked with wide variation in patterns. They are irregularly spotted and blotched with various shades of brown; the commonest shades on the handsomest eggs are “bay, ” “chestnut,” and “auburn”; the darkest markings vary from “light seal brown” to “cmnamon brown,” and the lighter markings from “buckthorn brown” to “clay color.” Sometimes the eggs are uniformly spotted all over the entire surface, with or without large blotches; sometimes the spots or blotches are concentrated at the larger end; and sometimes the eggs are very sparingly marked or even nearly immaculate. The measurements of 80 eggs average 57.6 by 38.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 65.2 by 39.2, 53 by 42.3, 52 by 38 and 54.5 by 34 millimeters.

Young: Thc period of incubation is said to be 21 days. Audubon (1840) says:

The young birds, which are at first covered with a thick down of a dark gray color, are fed by regurgitation. They take about five weeks to be able to fly, although they leave the nest at the end of three weeks, and stand on the branches, or on the ground, waiting the arrival of their parents with food, which consists principally of small fiddler crabs and crayfish. On some occasions, I have found them at this age miles away from the breeding places, and in this state they are easily caught. As soon as the young are able to provide for themselves, the old birds leave them, and the different individuals are then seen searching for food apart.

The breeding rookery I visited in Victoria County, Texas, on May 30, 1923, referred to above, gave me my best impression of the behavior of young white ibises, for we reached it at the time of their greatest activity. Having previously located the probable site of the rookery from a distance we found it quite a long trip into it, through a series of meadows, swamps, thickets, and groves of heavy forest growth. When we reached the thickest and wettest part of the big swamp where the willows, cypress, water oaks, and button bushes grew, and where the drier spots supported a heavy growth of live oaks, elms, tupelos, sweet gums, and black gums, festooned with long beards of Spanish moss, we began to see the birds flying from their nests. Way up in the tallest trees were the nests of the Ward herons and lower down those of the Mexican cormorants and water turkeys and in a clump of willows on the edge of an open space was a colony of American egrets. The air was full of white ibises, flying about in all directions, and often with them came a flash of pink and carmine, as a band of roseate spoonbills flew out into the open, circled and returned to alight on the bare tops of some tall (lead trees, favorite perches, which were often filled with both of these species. We were now in the center of the rookery; wading in mud and water nearly to our armpits, where big alligators had left their tracks on the exposed mud banks, we soon came to the main nesting grounds of the white ibises, in a thick growth of small trees and button bushes. The place seemed alive with them; every tree and bush was as full of their nests as possible, at heights varying from 4 feet above the water to 14 feet or more. The nests were much smaller than the spoonbill’s nests, were made of lighter sticks and were not so well made; they were lined with dry and green leaves. Some nests still contained three or four eggs, but by far the greater number contained, or had contained, young of various ages. Only the smaller young remained in the nests when we approached; all that were half grown or more began climbing out of the nests and traveling through the branches to get away from us; there were hundreds of them, scrambling through the trees and bushes in droves; it was a lively scene. Though awkward and ungainly in appearance, they were really expert climbers and made surprisingly good progress, using bills and wings as well as feet, in climbing and performing many acrobatic stunts. Short falls were frequent and often they fell into the water; where they went flopping off over the shallows or even swimming in the deep open water. If not too hard pressed, they preferred to huddle together in the tops of the trees. Many of them were already on the wing. How the parents ever find their young in such confusion is a mystery.

Plumages: The downy, young, white ibis is far from white. The head is glossy black, the throat and neck brownish black, the back is ~~mouse gray” and the under parts “pale mouse gray.” The down is short and thick on the head and short and scanty on the body. The bill is pale flesh color with a black tip.

The juvenal plumage is a striking combination of dark brown and white in marked contrast. The head and neck are mottled with dark brown and grayish white; the upper back, wings and outer half of the tail, are “clove brown” or”warm sepia”; the lower back, upper tail coverts and entire under parts are pure white. This plumage is worn through the first summer and fall, without much change except a gradual fading; by January the browns have faded to light, dingy shades. In December the first prenuptial molt begins, with the appearance of a few white feathers in the back. The molt then spreads during the late winter and early spring, involving the scapulars, wing coverts, and tail, in varying amounts; generally some of the juvenal rectrices are retained until the first postnuptial molt; and sometimes a few new white secondaries are acquired during the spring. In this first nuptial plumage young birds show a great variety of color patterns, but there is always more or less white, usually a preponderence of it, in the mantle and body plumage and the head and neck is always mottled with dusky and white.

At the first complete postnuptial molt, during the following summer, the young bird assumes a plumage which is nearly adult, including the white primaries with the bluish black tips; but some signs of immaturity remain all through the second winter and spring. Young birds breed in the second nuptial plumage, in which the head and neck is still more or less mottled with dusky and a few brown feathers are retained in the body plumage. At the seoond postnuptial molt, when over 2 years old, the young bird assumes the fully adult dress.

Adults apparently have a complete postnuptial molt and an incomplete prenuptial molt. The winter plumage of the adult, worn in the fall and early winter, differs from the nuptial only in having more or less dusky mottling in the crown and hind neck; the bill, face, and legs at this season are dull flesh color. The mottling on the head and neck disappears at the prenuptial molt and the naked parts become brilliant red, bright vermilion, or Turkey red; the gular pouch is distended in the nuptial display.

Food : A large breeding colony of ibises must soon exhaust the food supply in the immediate vicinity of its rookery~ although the proximity of a good food supply largely governs the selection of a nesting site. For this reason ibises often have to travel long distances to and from their feeding grounds. These flights occur mainly in the early morning and in the evening in the inland localities and at the proper stages of the tides on the seacoast. Their favorite feeding grounds are in the muddy, shallow waters of small lakes, ponds, and bayous, or on the fresh or salt water marshes or meadows, where crawfish and fiddler crabs abound.

Audubon (1840) describes the feeding habits, as follows:

The manner in which this bird searches for its food is very curious. The woodcock and the snipe, it is true, are probers as well as it, but their task requires ess ingenuity than is exercised by the white or the red ibis. It is aiso true that the white ibis frequently seizes on small crabs, slugs, and snails, and even at times on flying insects; but its usual mode of procuring food is a strong proof that cunning enters as a principal ingredient in its instinct. The crawfish often burrows to the depth of 3 or 4 feet in dry weather, for before it can be comfortable it must reach the water. This is generally the case during the prolonged heats of summer, at which time the white ibis is most pushed for food. The bird, to procure the crawfish, walks with remarkable care towards the mounds of mud which the latter throws up while forming its hole, and breaks up the upper part of the fabric, dropping the fragments into the deep cavity that has been made by the animal. Then the ibis retires a single step, and patiently waits the result. The crawfish, incommoded by the load of earth, instantly sets to work anew, and at last reaches the entrance of its burrow; but the moment it comes in sight, the ibis seizes it with his bill.

Oscar E. Baynard (1913) has shown that the feeding habits of ibises are much more beneficial than is generally supposed; he writes:

The ibis for their fondness of crayfish have about cleaned up the thousands of acies of flooded marshes around Orange Lake and the other known fact that crayfish destroy thousands of the spawn of fish and I have noticed that lakes and ponds that have lakes and ponds around them and no ibis are nearly always devoid of any great number of fish. Orange Lake has been fished with traps continually, but with the thousands of ibis and herons that use the lake as a reservation have kept the crayfish down to such an extent that there are more fish to-day in Orange Lake than in many years. There are several thousand acres of marsh around this lake and this has given the fish plenty of places to spawn. As young fish eat millions of mosquitoes it stands to reason that with ibis and herons we have more fish and less mosquitoes, and any bird that does so much good to a State is of very great value and should be protected for that reason alone.

He reported that the contents of the stomachs of 50 young white ibises contained 352 cutworms, 308 grasshoppers, 609 crayfish, and 42 small mocassins, an interesting bill of fare of a beneficial character.

Mr. Wayne (1922) says, of the feeding habits of the young:

Young white ibises, when able to take care of themselves, do not, as one would suppose, seek the principal food of the adult birds, which is crayfish, but hunt fiddlers in the canals and estuaries of the salt or brackish water marshes adjacent to the fresh-water reservoirs. The reason for this habit is obvious since fiddlers are easy to catch whereas crayfish would require more skill and dexterity.

Behavior: The flight of the white ibis is strong, direct, and rather swift, with rapid strokes of the wings and varied with occasional shorter periods of sailing. When flying in flocks the birds flap their wings or scale in unison,but the scaling or sailing periods are much shorter than with pelicans or cormorants. On their morning and evening flight they usually fly very low and in large flocks, close to the water, over lakes, or along water courses, rising just over the tree tops when necessary. The long curved bill, the pure white plumage of the adults, with their black wing-tips, and the parti-colored plumage of the young, are all good field marks, by which the species can easily be recognized at any reasonable distance. Occasionally a flock of white ibises rises high in the air to indulge in interesting aerial evolutions for sport or exercise.

When frightened and forced to fly away from their feeding grounds or nests, they are apt to alight in large numbers on some convenient tree, preferably a large dead one with bare branches; they often perch for long periods on such favorite trees; preening their plumage or dozing, standing on one leg, in an upright attitude, with the head drawn down on the shoulders and the bill resting on the breast. A large tree full of white ibises is a pretty sight, especially if there are a few roseate spoonbills scattered among them, as is often the case.

The white ibis walks gracefully on the ground and is active in its movements; it also climbs nimbly among the branches of trees or bushes, where it is quite at home. It can swim well if it happens to fall into the water, but probably never does so from choice.

It is not a noisy bird and its vocal performances are limited to a few soft grunting notes. One night,while waiting in my blind for the ibises to come to roost on the trees around me, I heard a peculiar conversational note which I recorded as sounding like “wa114,walla, walla.” Audubon (1840) says that on their breeding grounds the females are silent, “but the males evince their displeasure by utterbig sounds which greatly resemble those of the white-headed pigeon, and which may be imitated by the syllables crool,croo,croo.” And again he says that “if you disturb them when far away from their nests, they utter loud hoarse cries resembling the syllables hunk, hunk, hunk, either while on the ground or as they fly off.”

Enemies: Ibises are not generally regarded as game birds, but many are shot for food in the regions where they are plentiful and where they are locally called “white curlew.” That they have other enemies than man is illustrated by the following account by Audubon (1840):

The ibises had all departed for the Florida coasts, excepting a few of the white species, one of which was at length espied. It was perched about 50 yards from us toward the center of the pool, and as the report of one of our guns echoed among the tall cypresses, down to the water, broken winged, it fell. The exertions which it made to reach the shore seemed to awaken the half-torpid alligators that lay in the deep mud at the bottom of the pool. One showed his head above the water, then a second and a third. All gave chase to the poor wounded bird, which, on seeing its dreaded and deadly foes, made double speed toward the very spot where we stood. I was suprised to see how much faster the bird swam than the reptile3, wh9, with jaws widely openod, urged their heavy bodies through the water. The ibis was now within a few yards of us. It was the alligator’s last chance. Springing forward as it were, he raised his body almost out of the water; his jaws nearly touched the terrified bird; when pulling three triggers at once, we lodged the contents of our guns in the throat of the monster. Thrashing furiously with his tail, and rolling his body in agony, the alligator at last sank to the mud; and the ibis, as if in gratitude, walked to our very feet and there lying down, surrendered itself to us. I kept this bird until the succeeding spring, and by care and good nursing, had the pleasure of seeing its broken wing perfectly mended, when, after its long captivity, I restored it to liberty, in the midst of its loved swamps and woods.

Bird Key in Pinellas County, Florida, is infested, during the breeding season, with a horde of Florida crows and fish crows, which are constantly hovering over the nests, looking for a chance to pounce upon and carry off any unguarded eggs. The crows have a wholesome respect for the long, sharp beaks of the herons, but the soft, blunt bills of the gentle ibises are less dangerous weapons, and the crows work havoc among their eggs; every nest in the vicinity of my blind was cleaned out. Large numbers of black vultures and a few turkey vultures live on this Key; and from the middle of April on a great many man-o’-war birds visit it; probably all three of these birds destroy some eggs and young birds.

Breeding range: South Atlantic and Gulf coasts of ~he United States; Central America; Greater Antilles and northern South America. East to South Carolina (Mount Pleasant); Georgia (Alatamaha River); Florida (St. Johns River, Orange Lake, Indian River, Cuthbert and Alligator Lakes); Haiti (Sanchez). South to the coast of central Venezuela (Lake Valencia); and Peru (Santa Luzia). West to Costa Rica (La Palma); Nicaragua (Momotomba); and Lower California (La Paz). North to Texas (Nueces River and Victoria County); Louisiana (Bayou Sara and Point Coupee) and Mississippi (Natchez).

Migration: The white ibis is resident throughout practically its entire range although a slight movement in spring has been detected in the United States. Early dates of arrival are Whitfield, Florida, March 17 (1903), and St. Marys, Georgia, also March 17 (1904). A nine years’ average date of arrival at Bird Island, Orange Lake, Florida, is April 1.

Casual records: Wanderers to the North have been recorded on several occasions: One near the mouth of the Colorado River in March, 1914; a few seen near Ogden, Utah, September 1 to October S, 1871; a specimen was taken at Barr, Colorado in 1890; two were seen and one was secured in southeastern South Dakota in May, 1879; a flock of seven or eight, in immature plumage, were seen near Mount Carmel, Illinois, about May 8, 1878; one was taken near South Woodstock, Vermont, in the summer of 1878; one was seen near Milford, Connecticut, on May 23, 1875, by G. B. Grinnell; Giraud (1844) records two from Long Island, New York, one having been shot at Raynor South, in the summer of 1836 and the other at Moriches early in March, 1843; and Pearson (1899) reports taking a specimen in immature plumage from a flock of three, near Beaufort, North Carolina, July 26, 1898.

Egg dates: Florida: 108 records, March 4 to August 17; 54 records, April 12 to May 11.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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