The White Ibis breeds in the coastal region of Virginia, south and west to Louisiana, including inland S. Carolina through Florida. It also breeds along the entire coast of Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Cuba, Jamaica, Panama, and Costa Rica. Their non-breeding range extends only slightly deeper into inland Louisiana, Georgia, and S. Carolina.
Barriers, marshes, spoil islands on the coast, and islands in inland lakes are the preferred nesting sites for the White Ibis. These sites are in interior and coastal wetlands, in environments ranging from southeastern mixed forest to outer coastal plain forest, savanna, prairie parkland, and prairie bushland. Feeding habitats include sedge marshes, cypress swamps, salt marshes, and mangrove swamps.
Resembling the Great Blue Heron in body shape, the White Ibis is a medium-sized wading bird. Its feathers are entirely white, except for its dark wing tips. The face of the ibis is bare and pink, blending into its long, curved bill, which is brown at the tip. It has long pink legs, which end with webbed toes. The adults eyes are light blue.
Pair formation in ibises tends to depend on the amount of rain, light, and available food rather than occurring at a set time every year. Nest building, however, tends to fall between May and early June. Colonies begin with the roost sites of males, who form a sort of daytime bachelor party. The females then come and build the nests nearby. Nests are built in live or dead woody plants, usually in branch crotches. On average, 2-3 eggs are laid. Both the male and female incubate, and the eggs hatch about 21 days after incubation begins. The nestlings are born with their eyes closed and cannot stand, preferring to sleep for the first week of life. They are easily overheated, so both parents make sure to keep them guarded from the sun with their wings. After about 40-50 days of care from the parents, the fledgling ibises first leave the colony. They do not leave permanently until they are at least 79% the adult mass, which takes about two years to achieve.
The White Ibis walks slowly while foraging, occasionally leaping over others in their flock as it moves across its feeding grounds. White Ibises are highly sociable, nesting, feeding, roosting, and flying in flocks. In spite of this, ibises defend their small nesting territory and mate agressively. They do this by jabbing and biting at rivals, as well as holding their opponent's wing or head in their bill.
Using its long decurved bill and long neck, the White Ibis probes the surface of its wetland habitat for aquatic crustaceans (such as crayfish and crabs) and insects. It washes the mud from its prey in the surrounding water, then swallows it with a quick, upward thrust of the neck and head. White Ibises tend to feed in large groups. They fly with this group to and from their feeding location.
White Ibis was hunted as game throughout its range. Its appealing taste is thought to originate from its crustacean diet.
In Louisiana, White Ibises are considered a threat to commercial crayfish farmers and are sometimes shot as vermin.
The main threat to white ibis populations is the destruction of colony sites and wetland foraging environments by humans. The management of these areas is a problem, because ibises tend to change sites frequently. As a whole, however, the population is not experiencing large decreases in number and no special status has been issued for this species. In Florida white ibises are a species of special concern.
Jennifer Roof (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
Kushlan, James A. and Bildstein, Keith L. 1992. The Birds of North America. No. 9. The American Ornithologists' Union.