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Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Key facts

Scientific name: Plegadis falcinellus
Status: Rare vagrant

UK visitors: 50 birds

Conservation status: Not assessed
Length: 49 – 68 cm
Wingspan: 80 – 95 cm
Weight: 530 – 760 g

What do glossy ibises look like?

In breeding plumage, glossy ibises have chestnut upperparts and glossy bronze, purple, and green wings and tail that can appear black from a distance or in poor light. The underparts are chestnut.

The head and neck are chestnut with blue-black facial skin from the bill to the eye which is bordered by a line of pale blue skin. The bill is grey or brown, the eyes are brown, and the legs and feet vary from dark brown to olive grey.

Males and females are similar but the female is smaller than the male.

In non-breeding season, the plumage is duller overall, and the head and neck have fine white streaks. The pale blue line is weaker.

Juvenile glossy ibises resemble non-breeding adults with less of a sheen. The head and neck are browner and there are some white markings on the forehead, throat, and foreneck.

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How do glossy ibises breed?

Glossy ibises breed all year round depending on the range and produce 1 brood a season. They are monogamous and form pair bonds, and nest in colonies of up to 1,000 pairs often alongside herons and storks in marshes and thickets. Both adults build the nest, which is a bulky platform made of sticks and vegetation placed in a low tree or bush over land or water, but sometimes on the ground.

Glossy ibises lay 1-5 pale blue or pale green which are incubated by both parents for 21 days, although they female sits on the nest more often. When the male visits the nest he may bring small twigs and leaves which the female adds to the nest.

Chicks are covered in sooty-black down and are fed regurgitated food by both parents. They leave the nest at about 2-3 weeks after hatching and make their first flight at 4-5 weeks and can fly well by 6-7 weeks. The reach sexual maturity at 3 years.

What do glossy ibises eat?

Glossy ibises eat mainly insects such as beetles, flies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, and spiders, as well as crayfish, frogs, tadpoles, lizards, small snakes, and snails.

They forage in large flocks by wading in shallow water and probing the mud for food. They may also pick up prey from the ground of surface of the water.

Glossy Ibis

Where can I see glossy ibises?

Although, still a rare visitor to the UK, the numbers of glossy ibises are increasing and there have been breeding attempts in recent years. They are found mostly in the south of England and can often be found in small groups with other wading birds. Look out for them in lakes, marshes, floods, swamps, and estuaries.

What do glossy ibises sound like?

Alexander Schlatmann/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The black curlew referenced in Anglo-Saxon literature may be a reference to the glossy ibis although there is no evidence they ever inhabited the UK.

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