American White Ibis

Eudocimus albus
Range Map

The American White Ibis is a bird of the tropics and we find them north to the deep south in the USA, the Caribbean islands, Central America, and the Caribbean and northwest coasts of South America. They forage on small aquatic prey and find their food more by feel than by sight. Some authorities believe these birds are the same species as the Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), and where their ranges overlap, they will interbreed. Studies have shown that concentrations of methylmercury from pollution (untreated effluent) have caused a drop in the reproduction of Ibis.

These birds are seldom idle. Studies show that on an average day they forage for ten and a half hours, fly for 45 minutes, and split 13 hours between nesting, preening, and roosting. Early ornithologists believed the brown juvenile ibis were of a separate species, and called them the Brown Curlew.

Though not all authorities agree, many recognise two subspecies of American White Ibis:

  • E. a. albus is the white form of this species that live north of Panama.
  • E. a. ruber or Scarlet Ibis lives in South America.

To date, all my encounters with White Ibis have been on the gulf coast of Texas, from Lower Rio Grande Valley to High Island on to Bolivar Peninsula northeast of Galveston. My introduction to this species came during my first trip to Aransas NWR, and an early morning formation flew in low just overhead while I was searching for Whooping Cranes. The Ibis flock made a nice consolation prize for the cranes that remained too distant for a satisfying visit.

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