Photo: Charles Dewey/Audubon Photography Awards

Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus

Flocks of Glossy Ibises wade in the shallows of eastern marshes, probing for food with their sickle-shaped bills. Widespread in the Old World, the species is found in the New World mainly in the West Indies and along our Atlantic Coast, especially Florida, where it was quite scarce as recently as the 1930s. It may have invaded within the last few centuries, riding the trade winds across from West Africa to the Caribbean.
Conservation status North American population greatly increased, and expanded range northward, during 20th century. In some areas, apparently has declined somewhat since 1970s.
Family Ibises and Spoonbills
Habitat Marshes, rice fields, swamps. Forages in shallow waters, favoring marshes (either fresh or salt), flooded fields, shallow ponds, estuaries. Nests in low stands of willows and other shrubs surrounded by marsh, on ground in spartina marsh, in dense thickets of trees and shrubs on higher ground, sometimes in mangroves.
Flocks of Glossy Ibises wade in the shallows of eastern marshes, probing for food with their sickle-shaped bills. Widespread in the Old World, the species is found in the New World mainly in the West Indies and along our Atlantic Coast, especially Florida, where it was quite scarce as recently as the 1930s. It may have invaded within the last few centuries, riding the trade winds across from West Africa to the Caribbean.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • juvenile
  • adult, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by wading in shallow water, probing in soft mud for food. Also picks up insects and other visible items from surface of water or soil.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 1-5. Pale blue or green. Female does more of incubation than male: all night, part of day. Incubation period about 21 days. Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. By age of 2-3 weeks, young may wander or climb about near nest. First attempt to fly at 4-5 weeks. At 6-7 weeks, young can fly well, may go to feeding areas with parents.


Young

Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. By age of 2-3 weeks, young may wander or climb about near nest. First attempt to fly at 4-5 weeks. At 6-7 weeks, young can fly well, may go to feeding areas with parents.

Diet

Mostly insects and crayfish. Feeds on beetle larvae in soft soil, also adults and larvae of many aquatic insects. Crayfish may be main food in some areas. In Florida, reported to eat many small snakes. Also may eat leeches, snails, crabs, frogs, small fish.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies, sometimes associated with other kinds of wading birds. Nest site is in shrubs or low trees over water or over land, or on ground on island. Nest (built by both sexes) is bulky platform of sticks and marsh plants, with a shallow depression at center. Adults may continue adding to nest throughout the period of incubating the eggs and feeding the young.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Withdraws from northern part of breeding range in winter. Migrates in flocks, moving south relatively early. Singles and small flocks sometimes wander far north and inland, especially in spring and summer.

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Migration

Withdraws from northern part of breeding range in winter. Migrates in flocks, moving south relatively early. Singles and small flocks sometimes wander far north and inland, especially in spring and summer.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Low grunts and higher-pitched bleats.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.