Thursday, June 2, 2011

White-faced Ibis

There are not many birds that have iridescent feathers. Two that come to mind are the Turkey and the White-faced Ibis. Most of us have seen wild Turkeys either in the wild or in pictures, but my guess is that most have not seen the White-faced Ibis. Hagerman Wildlife Refuge usually has a few each year, but this year over 30 Ibis can be observed feeding in the shallow marsh.

The White-faced Ibis is a medium size shorebird - 20-26 inches tall, with a wingspan of 32-36 inches. The most obvious feature on the face of the Ibis is the long, down curved bill. The Ibis uses its curved bill to search in the mud for snails, newts, insects, and especially crayfish, frogs, and fish. The White-faced Ibis gets its name from the thin band of white feathers around its mostly red face.

The White-faced Ibis numbers, while somewhat recovered inland, are declining in coastal North America where they are threatened by the draining and receding of wetlands and the use of pesticides. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, not only are they on the Texas "threatened" list, but are being reviewed by the federal government for potentially being listed as an endangered or threatened species.

Usually the Ibis is seen as a brown bird with a long curled bill feeding in the marsh and along the shallow shoreline. Only when the sunlight is at the right angle do the back and tail feathers show the iridescent blue, green, and purple colors. As a photographer wanting a flight image, you must find the birds feeding at just the right angle to the sun and then hope, when they take flight, that they do at this same angle such that a flight image showing the iridescent color on the Ibis's back feathers can be captured. As always, patience is a photographer's best asset. A little luck never hurts either.

Skeeter & Marolyn Lasuzzo

Photography by Skeeter Lasuzzo

For more information about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, please see the official website, and to learn more about the Friends, see

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