Creature Feature #18 - AMERICAN WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)
Visitors to the Mound House frequently encounter flocks of white ibis wading the rocky shoreline, perched in the mangroves or patrolling our freshly mowed lawn in search of grubs and insects.
A very distinctive wading bird, the white ibis sports a long curving orange bill, orange legs and brilliant white plumage with black wingtips when mature. Younger white ibis are a brownish white.
The American white ibis can be found throughout the Gulf and South Atlantic coastal regions of the United States ,Mexico and Central America as well as the Caribbean. They are found in a variety of habitats from muddy pools to mangrove swamps, mudflats, cypress forests and even the manicured lawns here on Estero Island.
Feeding primarily on small fish, crabs and crayfish as well as insects, the white ibis readily adapts its feeding behavior to match availability. During the breeding season, ibis gather in large flocks. They are territorial and defend their nests against intruders with elaborate displays of bill snapping ,lunging and biting.
Sometimes, the American white ibis can be found foraging in mixed species flocks that include the glossy ibis, the scarlet ibis and even wood storks. Many of the white ibis observed on Estero Island will move inland to the coastal marshes as waters recede with the onset of the dry season. These lowered water levels concentrate forage species such as minnows and crayfish into much smaller areas making feeding easier for the ibis.
Native American folklore holds that the white ibis is the last bird to seek shelter before a hurricane and the first to emerge after the storm, making the ibis a first a harbinger of danger and later optimism as the “all clear” sign that the hurricane has passed. Fittingly, the white ibis is also the mascot of the Miami Hurricanes.