Learn About The Scarlet Ibis

12th August 2020

This medium-sized wader is a hardy, numerous, and prolific bird, and it has protected status around the world.

Biologically the scarlet ibis is very closely related to the American white ibis (Eudocimus albus) and is sometimes considered conspecific with it leaving modern science divided over their taxonomy. The two birds each have exactly the same bones, claws, beaks, feather arrangements and other features – their one marked difference lies in their pigmentation.

They live in flocks of thirty or more. Members stay close, and mating pairs arrange their nests in close proximity to other pairs in the same tree.

In the wild an important local habitat for the scarlet ibis is the wildlife sanctuary of Caroni Swamp of Trinidad, a 199 hectares (490 acres) wetland reserve first designated in 1953 specifically to provide a safe habitat for the scarlet ibis.

Scarlet Ibis spend most of their time on foot or wading through water, these birds are very strong flyers: they are highly migratory and easily capable of long-distance flight.

The scarlet ibis was declared Trinidad’s national bird in 1962. It’s since been illegal to hunt the birds, but poachers still go after their meat for traditional dishes. Today, the Scarlet Ibis is designated an “environmentally sensitive species,” meaning poachers may face prison time and massive fines.

As with flamingos, the brilliant red colour of the Scarlet Ibis comes from carotene found in the crustaceans on which it feeds.

Ibises are an ancient lineage with fossil records going back 60 million years.

These spectacularly coloured birds live in extensive colonies. Males woo female Scarlet Ibises with complex courtship dances. They will typically pair off for life.


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