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Is this an Ibis?

Roseate spoonbillwhite ibisThe Question: I think I’ve identified the pink bird in these photos as a Roseate Spoonbill, but I’m not sure about the white birds. I used an app called Merlin, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and it looks like a White Ibis, but I can’t find a speck of black on them, and they’re supposed to have black tips on their wings?

Submitted by: Lisa, Florida, USA

(click on photos and graphics to expand)

The Short Answer: Lisa, you’re right on both birds. The first one is indeed a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). And you and Merlin are also correct that the second is a white ibis (Eudocimus albu). The black wing tips are pretty well hidden when the bird is on the ground. If they’re walking around and flexing their wings from time to time, you should catch a glimpse of the black wing tips and if you follow the red arrow to the bird on the far left of your photo, you’ll see a little black at the rump. That’s actually the wing tips, folded up.  The darker bird in the foreground is an immature white ibis, by the way.

This video shows a small flock of white ibis, and if you watch closely for a bit, you’ll occasionally see black at the rump where the wing tips are folded:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyjBe3n4p4w.  

More Information: Interestingly, spoonbills and ibises are in the same family, the Threskiornithidae. There are 28 species of ibis and six species of spoonbills. White ibis and roseate spoonbills have similar diets of small aquatic invertebrates and fish, and both are tactile hunters. They move their beaks back and forth in water, sand and mud until they sense vibrations and then with extraordinary speed, they grasp the prey. To improve their ability to “feel” the vibrations, ibis and spoonbills have tiny pressure-sensitive pits in their bills. Some spoonbill species have as many as 20,000 of these sensory pits.

To see a video of an ibis feeding by feeling its way through sand at the edge of the water, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdOkTa4dN_U

Cite this article as: Pelletier, TC. (February 28, 2014). Is this an Ibis? Retrieved from http://askanaturalist.com/is-this-an-ibis/ on December 11, 2016.

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