At a Glance

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.
Ibises and Spoonbills, Long-legged Waders
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
California, Eastern Canada, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Flap/Glide, Formation, Rapid Wingbeats, Soaring

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


22-25" (56-64 cm). W. 3'1 (94 cm). Very similar to Glossy Ibis, usually best identified by range. (They overlap on western Gulf Coast, and each may wander into range of the other.) In breeding plumage, has border of white feathers around red face skin (Glossy has dark gray face skin with pale blue edge, no white feathering), often has reddish legs. Immatures not safely identified; winter adults of the two species almost identical, although White-faced has red eyes.
About the size of a Heron, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Brown, Green, Red, White
Wing Shape
Broad, Long, Rounded
Tail Shape

Songs and Calls

Low croaks and grunts.
Call Pattern
Flat, Simple
Call Type


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.



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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the White-faced Ibis. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the White-faced Ibis

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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