Photo: Frederick Kent Truslow/Vireo

White-faced Ibis

Plegadis chihi

Very similar to the Glossy Ibis, and mostly replaces it west of the Mississippi River, although the two species occur together in parts of the southeast. White-faced Ibises wander through the west during the warmer months, and they may quickly find and take advantage of temporary new habitat after rains or flooding. Even their nesting sites often change from year to year with changes in local water levels.
Conservation status Local numbers fluctuate, but total population in North America apparently increased from 1970s to 1990s. Has expanded breeding range somewhat eastward during same period.
Family Ibises and Spoonbills
Habitat Fresh marshes, irrigated land, tules. For foraging, favors very shallow water, as in marshes, flooded pastures, irrigated fields. Sometimes in damp meadows with no standing water. Prefers fresh water marsh, but sometimes forages in salt marsh.
Very similar to the Glossy Ibis, and mostly replaces it west of the Mississippi River, although the two species occur together in parts of the southeast. White-faced Ibises wander through the west during the warmer months, and they may quickly find and take advantage of temporary new habitat after rains or flooding. Even their nesting sites often change from year to year with changes in local water levels.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • immature (1st winter)
  • juvenile
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, breeding
Feeding Behavior

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


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-5. Clutches of more than 5 probably result from other females laying eggs in nest. Eggs pale blue-green to dark turquoise. Incubation is by both sexes, 17-26 days, usually 21-22 days. Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. At age of 3 weeks, young may move about outside nest; attempt to fly at 4 weeks, can usually fly fairly well at 5 weeks.


Young

Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. At age of 3 weeks, young may move about outside nest; attempt to fly at 4 weeks, can usually fly fairly well at 5 weeks.

Diet

Mostly insects, crustaceans, earthworms. Feeds on aquatic insects and their larvae, as well as those living in damp soil. Eats many crayfish and earthworms. Also eats frogs, snails, small fish, leeches, spiders.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies. Colony sites often shift from year to year with changes in water levels. Nest site is usually in dense marsh growth (such as bulrush or cattails) or in low shrubs or trees above water, sometimes on ground on islands. Nest (built by both sexes) is bulky platform of bulrushes or other plant stems, with depression at center. Material gathered close to nest site, sometimes stolen from vacant nests of other birds.

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

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

Migration

Present all year in southern California and coastal Texas and Louisiana; migratory elsewhere. Birds from all populations are likely to wander. Strays have reached Atlantic Coast often in recent decades.

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Migration

Present all year in southern California and coastal Texas and Louisiana; migratory elsewhere. Birds from all populations are likely to wander. Strays have reached Atlantic Coast often in recent decades.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Low croaks and grunts.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Ibises and Spoonbills Long-legged Waders

White-faced Ibis

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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