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White-faced Ibis

Plegadis chihi

Length: 22 - 26 inches Wingspan: 38 inches Seasonality: Summer/Migrant
ID Keys: Dark brown and chestnut body, long decurved bill, reddish legs

White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihiThe White-faced Ibis is the Ibis most commonly found in South Dakota.  It is very similar to the Glossy Ibis, but the two species ranges are generally distinctive.   Where they do overlap, intermediates (possibly hybrids) can make positive identification nearly impossible.  Like many birds, DDT was thought to contribute to poor nesting success for White-faced Ibis, caused a sharp decline in populations during the mid to late 20th century, but numbers have rebounded since. They also appear to be expanding their range to the north, and are perhaps more common in some parts of South Dakota than they were historically.

Habitat: Prefers shallow freshwater marshes, flooded fields, rice paddies.  Will also forage in saltwater marshes.

Diet: Mostly insect and crustaceans, also earthworms, frogs, tadpoles, snails, leeches, and small fish.

Behavior: Forages in shallow water, probing for food items in the muddy bottom. They will also take insects and other prey from the water's surface, or by foraging on dry land.

Nesting: June and July. Colonial nesters, with many birds nesting in one location, sometimes sharing a colony with other wading birds. The nest of a White-faced Ibis is a raised platform with a depressed center, built of cattails and other marsh vegetation, lined with grasses and finer vegetative material. Both sexes help build the nest, placing it in thick wetland vegetation (such as cattail or bulrush), in a waterside bush or small tree, or sometimes on the ground in highly protected areas like an island. Between 2 and 5 eggs are laid, with both sexes helping to incubate them. The young hatch after about 3 weeks, and fledge from the nest after about another 3 or 4 weeks.

Song: The call of a White-faced Ibis is a nasal sound, almost like a quack.  Click here to listen to the call of a White-faced Ibis, from a bird over-wintering in Brazil (audio courtesy of Jeremy Minns). Here's a similar quacking alarm call from a bird in Louisiana (audio courtesy of Dan Lane).

Migration: Summers in scattered locations throughout the central and western United States.  Winters in California, Arizona, the Gulf Coast, and points south.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of White-faced Ibis sightings

Similar Species: Glossy Ibis.  Juvenile White Ibis can appear similar.

Conservation Status: Has increased in number since the 1970s, and is expanding in range.  Previous declines are attributed to DDT and other pesticides, but populations have rebounded strongly since the ban of such chemicals. The IUCN considers the White-faced Ibis to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, White-faced Ibis

2) Audubon Guide - White-faced Ibis

3) Whatbird.com: White-faced Ibis

Photo Information: April 25th, 2004 -- 4 miles west of Oldham -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution White-faced Ibis photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
White-faced Ibis - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Locally common summer breeder in the northeastern part of the state, uncommon migrant elsewhere in the east.  Rare migrant in the western part of the state.

Additional White-faced Ibis Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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