Treetops to Marsh: The White Ibis

Dateline: September 13, 2013*

What’s with all the treetop birds?

I was gabbing on the phone with my sister yesterday afternoon and I wandered out onto the patio. Two lots over is where the wooded areas begin and I noticed some birds coming in for a landing in the treetops.  I didn’t pay too much attention thinking they were the resident Vultures, but then I saw a couple of Egrets land in some trees across the street.
My, that’s a versatile group: Ibis and Hawk and check out that Spanish Moss blowing in the breeze.

I finished talking with my sister and grabbed my field glasses.  I saw that there were several different birds perched in the cypress trees and pine snags, so I grabbed my zoom camera (which has minimal features since it isn’t high end) and snapped a few shots.
Wow, it’s a wading bird convention

Suddenly, more and more birds were flying in along the tree line, landing in a cleared lot across the street from the wooded area.

One flew in, then two at once.  A quartet followed.  Five landed in a tree.

Some landed in the trees overlooking the cleared lot.

I decided that this was something I couldn’t miss and took the short walk down the block.
The adults are white, the juveniles start dark turning white

I was amazed at the number of birds in the clearing, in the trees and many more still flying in.  The majority were White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) but there was a black vulture or two, the egrets and a  Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) all in the mix.
An egret stands tall next to the shorter cousins

I often see ibis fly overhead in large flocks and have even had a stray or two land pond-side, but these massive numbers was an amazing surprise.
Even a vulture joined the pack of mixed juveniles and adults.

The range in the United States is the Atlantic coastline from North Carolina south to and including all of peninsula Florida. Range continues west along the Gulf of Mexico down to the Mexican border where it continues south. The White Ibis migrates slightly further inland in its range.
Occasionally they visit my pond as this one did back in 2010.

The habitat for White Ibis can be freshwater, saltwater and brackish marshes.  I’m not sure what the attraction was in this particular lot but I suppose at this time of year it qualifies as a marsh.  As a cypress swamp it is seasonally to regularly wet and parts are drying out, so I can only imagine that the aquatic delicacies were within easy sight and reach of the flock.  It also is rich with native sedges.
That one was just a youngster, the bill wasn’t even pink yet.

A member of the Ciconiiformes Order, the White ibis will hang out with other members of that Order which include herons and storks.
They like the cypress trees

They feed primarily on crustaceans that they dig up using their long, curved bill as a probe.  In my area that would likely be crawdads.

Other food choices include insects, frogs, snails, snakes, and small fish, all readily available in our area. Flocks of white ibis will move from location to location in search of food so I guess that our block was a quick stop on the over-ground food railroad.

The white ibis is listed as a Species of Special Concern (SSC) in Florida due to habitat destruction. This truly was a fantastic and rewarding encounter and I believe they are secure in my area because most of the surrounding lands are wildlife management or conservation areas.