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Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents Dig Imperial Beach "Bird of the Week", the "White-faced Ibis"

May 18, 2016 06:42PM ● By Paul Spear

Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the "White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)"

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Bryan Brillhart Photography

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the climate endangered White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi), a 

 wading bird in the ibis family Threskiornithidae. It is 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. Local numbers fluctuate, but their total population in North America apparently increased from the 1970s to 1990s. They have expanded their breeding range somewhat eastward during the same period.

 White-faced Ibis habitat is in fresh marshes, irrigated land, and tules. For foraging, it favors very shallow water, as in marshes, flooded pastures, and irrigated fields, or sometimes in damp meadows with no standing water. It prefers fresh water marshes, but sometimes forages in salt marshes. It probes in soft mud for food, also picking insects and other items from the surface of water or soil, or from plants above water. Diet is mostly insects, crustaceans, and earthworms. It feeds on aquatic insects and their larvae, as well as those living in damp soil, also eating many crayfish and earthworms. It may also eat frogs, snails, small fish, leeches, spiders. The White-faced Ibis breeds in colonies. Colony sites often shift from year to year with changes in water levels. Nest sites are usually in dense marsh growth (such as bulrush or cattails) or in low shrubs or trees above water, and sometimes on ground on islands. Nests, built by both sexes, are a bulky platform of bulrushes or other plant stems, with a depression at the center consisting of material gathered close to the nest site, or sometimes stolen from vacant nests of other birds.

After mating, females lay 3-4, sometimes 2-5 eggs. Clutches of more than 5 probably results 

 from other females laying eggs in the nest. Eggs are pale blue-green to dark turquoise. Incubation is by both sexes, in about 17-26 days, but usually 21-22 days. Both parents feed their young by regurgitation. At the age of 3 weeks, young may move about outside the nest, and may attempt to fly at about 4 weeks. Fledglings can usually fly fairly well at 5 weeks. In the wild, White-faced Ibises usually live for nine years; however the oldest recorded wild white-faced ibis lived for fourteen years and six months.

I was lucky to walk upon a small flock of the White-faced Ibis this week in the Tijuana Estuary. This is a rare sighting there, and I was thrilled to see and photograph them. Look for the many diverse breeds inhabiting the Estuary throughout the year. You may be surprised at what you see there. Until next week, happy birding!


Bryan Brillhart


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