110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jan 27, 2014 - 6:47:03am
Flocks of beautiful white ibises with their long, tangerine-colored bills seem to be everywhere in Volusia County lately! We have the swamps, wet prairies, marshes and flooded fields that they love. They live mainly in the southeastern U.S. and south to northern South America.
These 25-inch-tall white wading curlews have small black tips on their wings that are only visible when they fly. Their wingspan is 38 inches, and they weigh about 2 pounds. Their down-curved bill and legs are bright orange now, but turn blood-red at breeding time!
The females are a little smaller than the males, and have shorter bills, but at a glance, the difference is not obvious.
White ibises have partially webbed feet and long legs. If you see brown splotchy ibises, those are the young ones waiting for their white plumage as they mature!
Crawfish, aquatic insects, grasshoppers, crabs, small fish, grass shrimp, and small snakes are their diet. They are tactile, nonvisual foragers who probe with their long beaks in shallow water or soil.
Breeding time is in the spring, and large numbers of the white ibises will gather together. The female selects the site for a nest, which is usually in tree branches, and the male brings the building material. The female lays one to five eggs.
Throughout the times of mating and incubation, the male actually goes through a starvation period so he can be near the nest and defend it -- and defend his mate. He even occasionally helps incubate.
If opportunity knocks, some of the starving male ibises become pirates! Really! I would call it being thieves or just survival, but they’re known as pirates, according to one of my resources.
A pirate will sometimes find an unmated female or juvenile, put his long beak in the other bird’s mouth, and extract a ball of food! This way, he gets food without being away from the nest. Wow! What a possessive, intriguing life these birds instinctively have!
The eggs hatch in three weeks, and the brown, fuzzy chicks that emerge have short beaks.
White ibises can live up to 16 years. We’re glad they like Florida, since we really enjoy them!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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