White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis foraging in New Mexico

So I managed to get a couple of pictures of a white-faced ibis a couple of years ago while on vacation in New Mexico with my parents.

We had decided to drive through the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge after going to the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

Our vacation was in mid-May so I wasn’t expecting to see a large number of migratory birds, but was hoping to maybe spot one or two birds that I normally wouldn’t see in Stillwater (unless I was out really early in the day at one of the lakes and very, very lucky).

Luck was with me that day–I managed to spot not only the white-faced ibis, but also a quail and the black-necked stilt (which I hadn’t seen since our trip to South Padre Island years earlier).

White-faced ibis walking through the waters in Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

So the name white-faced ibis is slightly misleading in that there is only a patch of white skin around it’s eyes and beak–the feathers on its head look glossy black. So unless you’re looking closely at the face, you might mistake this ibis for the glossy ibis (who shares a slight overlap in geographical range).

Depending on the distance between you and the ibis (and also then the zoom lens on your camera), the adults can look like they have all black feathers. In reality, their feathers are more of a glossy maroon color with green and bronze tones on the wing feathers.

The white-faced ibis is only found in the Americas–making it a ‘new world’ ibis. They are found in wetland environments, where there is shallow water and/or exposed mud beds. In addition during migration they may also be found in farm fields and other open areas where the soil is moist.

White-faced Ibis geographical range. Map (c) birds of the world

The best areas to try and spot them are near shallow waters and/or exposed mud beds where they may be seen walking along sweeping their beaks through the water.

They are also usually seen in flocks, though they may be spotted individually when migrating.

Their diet consists of mostly invertebrates–such as earthworms, crayfish, spiders, snails, clams, leeches, and various insects (such as dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles).

They will forage by lowering their beaks into the water or mud to feel for the prey, or by swinging their beak side to side in the water.

White-faced ibis foraging in the water at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Unlike the glossy ibis, the white-faced ibis isn’t known to eat seeds or plant material to complement their diets.

While these birds aren’t currently listed on any conservation list, they do face problems that if they aren’t addressed or corrected could result in the species getting placed on a conservation list in the coming decades.

The issues that face the white-faced ibis include: pollutants and toxic materials being detected in both the eggs and the adults–resulting in mortality and/or reduced nesting success; disturbances at nesting colony sites, and the diversion of water have also resulted in ibises abandoning their nests and then the nesting site in general.

We need to become better stewards of the planet both for our own generation and then the generations to come. We (humans) are also the ones driving insect pest evolution by constantly using insecticides and pesticides instead of investing in the production of crops that are resistant to the issues–genetically modified organisms, and yes this is the way to go for the future of agriculture. Also-if you want solid ‘organic’ food, good luck finding the dandelion flowers to eat; humans have been ‘modifying’ plants and animals since we started farming over ten thousand years ago.

One photography goal is to see the white-faced ibis in a flock either grazing or possibly migrating. I would also like to get a picture of a young white-faced ibis as well.

Reference: https://www.allabaoutbirds.org/guide/White-faced_Ibis