Scientific Name: Eudocimus ruber
Young scarlet ibises are grayish brown. Like flamingos, scarlet ibises develop their red color as they get older from the foods they eat.
Ibises are an ancient species with a fossil record going back 60 million years and a record in human history going back 5,000 years. In ancient times they were valued for protecting crops by controlling pest populations.
STATUS: Although classified as Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ibises are decreasing in number mainly due to loss of habitat.
HABITAT: Scarlet ibises live in the mud flats, mangrove swamps, marshes, and lagoons of South America, from Venezuela to Brazil.
DIET: These birds eat a wide variety of aquatic creatures, including mollusks, fish, and crustaceans, as well as worms, insects, frogs, and even small snakes.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The most striking feature of the scarlet ibis is the beautiful color for which it is named. Not only are their feathers red, except where the wings are tipped in black, but their bills and legs are red as well. Their long legs and partially webbed feet are adapted for walking in the swampy areas they call home, while their long, curved bill and neck help them probe the shallow water and mud where they hunt for food.
Gregarious and Graceful
Scarlet ibises like each other’s company—they live, feed, breed, and fly in large flocks. When flying, they form a V, much like migrating geese, to decrease wind resistance for the birds in the back. They take turns at the point of the V, where the wind is strongest, switching places when the leader tires. When they fly, they flap their wings in unison and glide, creating a beautiful rippling effect in the sky.