Photo courtesy Barry Knott
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the white-faced ibis.
This beautiful migratory, wading bird has been spotted here recently feeding in shallow-water wetland areas. Seen in breeding plumage, it is a chestnut maroon color with metallic green and bronze hues, and has pink legs. A white patch of feathers that extends behind the eyes and borders a naked facial patch is the source of its name.
This ibis is found mainly west of the Mississippi River and breeds primarily in colonies found in Utah, Nevada, Oregon and coastal areas of Texas and Louisiana, but also nests in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Many winter in Mexico or live year-round in South America. The glossy ibis, with a similar appearance, is found most often on the East Coast and also ranges to Eurasia, Africa and Australia.
The ibis uses its long, sickle-shaped bill to probe in wet soil or wetland mud for earthworms, invertebrates and crayfish. Sensitive ends on the bill locate food by touch when probing in mud, but the ibis also hunts by swinging its bill side to side in water to stir up prey and locate it by sight. They will feed on prey at the surface of water, on vegetation and even take fish, frogs and small rodents that cross their paths.
Look for these birds here feeding in wetland areas like the ponds off Piedra Road, Vista Pond and those along the Riverwalk. Continued drought in the West, with competition for water rights, has impacted important breeding areas, even in wildlife refuges, which depend on water to provide nesting sites for many migratory species.
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