White ibis

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(Eudocimus albus)

By Jan Baumgartner

The ibis is one of the many long-legged, long-billed wading birds often congregating around Siesta Key’s estuaries, mangroves, and wetlands.
This adult specimen’s normally orangey-pink legs and bill have ignited into a fiery red with some black-out accents during breeding season. As a general rule, vibrant colorations help the birds catch the eye of a potential mate.

In chatty groups, ibises are content to stroll through fresh, brackish, or salt water up to 8 inches deep with a certain nonchalance. The graceful decurved bill probes below the water’s surface to snatch hidden insects, crayfish, crabs, and small fish.
Upon contact, the bill snaps shut to pinch the prey like a tweezer. While many morsels (like this minnow) are swallowed on the spot, the really muddy items are carried to the shore to wash off the mud before eating.
The ibis is known for both its sociable and territorial nature. Community foraging, flying, and nesting habits counterbalance the fierce, even violent, rivalry among males who protect their nest, their mate, and their honor.

Jan Baumgartner’s handmade notecards are available at Sunshine & Sand Hidden Treasures, 6635 Midnight Pass Rd., in Crescent Plaza.

Jan Baumgartner
Author: Jan Baumgartner

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