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Solid scarlet except for black wing tips; bill is long, thin and curved downward; neck is long and slender; legs are also long and thin with partially webbed feet; juveniles are dull, grayish brown
75 cm (30 in.); wingspan 30 cm (1 ft.)
1.35 kg (3 lb.)
Crustaceans, mollusks, fish, insects, frogs, and small snakes
Up to 20 years
Northern South America; from Venezuela to eastern Brazil
Mud flats, estuaries, shorelines, and shallow bays
Ibises have curved, slender bills that they use to probe into shallow water, mud or grass when foraging.
As with flamingos, the brilliant red color of the scarlet ibis comes from carotene found in the crustaceans on which it feeds.
The scarlet ibis is a gregarious bird, living, traveling, and breeding in flocks. In flight, ibises form diagonal lines or v-formations. This formation decreases wind resistance for trailing birds. When the leader of the pack tires, it falls to the back of the formation and another ibis takes its place at the front.
Ibis' are rather quiet birds, only grunting or croaking on breeding grounds.
Both the male and female take turns in guarding the nest site until the chicks are large enough to defend themselves. In addition, both parents help feed the chicks.
Ibises are an ancient species with fossil records going back 60 million years.
The scarlet ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Habitat destruction, poaching, and insecticide use such as DDT have all caused the decline of several ibis species.
These birds are not only scavengers, seen around rubbish dumps or sewage works, but they also move around croplands helping egrets and others to rid the area of insect pests. Its adaptability to any of several food sources ensures its success as a species.
Because of their role in helping to control crop pests, they are very valuable to farmers. However, agricultural pesticide usage has endangered the birds in several locations.
Occasionally, these birds are hunted for food. Their appealing taste is perhaps due to their preference for crabs and other crustaceans.
Birds - Their Latin Names Explained
. Poole, Dorst: Blandford Press, 1981.
Perrins, Dr. Christopher.
Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World
. New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1979.