May 2018 Bird Photo of the Month

Whoosh © Bill Capie
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

White Ibis, with their long decurved bills, walking in groups on neighborhood lawns probing for grubs and insects, make them our familiar and amusing friends. Yet, White Ibis are unique in that they vary in their nesting/breeding times, and readily shift roosts and nesting sites. This allows them to follow their food (mostly small fishes and crustaceans) that inhabits shallow, freshwater wetlands. Thus, the bird is a symbol of Florida conservation in a state where development is rapidly devouring and polluting the wetlands.  Fortunately, the birds find safe nesting sites on islands free from predators like raccoons, snakes, cats, and humans, and they often roost on brackish-water islands, as in the Lagoon.

How unique they are! When birds flock in groups, they find protection because there are more eyes alert for danger. They also are more successful in foraging as others spot and stir up the insects or fish with their many feet.  They come together in flocks to roost at night.  Do they share stories of their day of the best food locations, or the perfect water level for wading and finding the little crustaceans?  Before dawn, they all take off at once… whooo…….ooooshhhhh! What an amazing sound of hundreds of wings all together!  What is their signal they instinctually respond to, to to say it is time to take off together?

Although huge flocks on island colonies might attract predators, the massive flock provides safety in numbers, preventing predators from focusing on one bird.  Bill Capie has captured this phenomenon near Alafia Banks in Tampa Bay.  We, too, find it difficult to focus on one bird, but the white wings on black background result makes an amazing, artistic pattern.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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