Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus

The Glossy Ibis is a rather small ibis (weighing between 500 and 750g with a wingspan of a metre or less), occurring in shallow wetlands, lagoons, estuaries, swamps and flooded meadows, rice paddies and sewerage works. Here they feed mostly on aquatic invertebrates (insects, worms, molluscs, crustaceans, etc) and only occasionally on vertebrates like fish and frogs.

Most breeding takes place just before or during the rainy season. Glossy Ibis nest in colonies, usually consisting of between 5 and 100, but often thousands, of monogamous pairs, and often together with other waterbirds. The nests are platforms constructed from twigs, usually just slightly above the waterline in trees or other emergent vegetation standing in wetlands. Females normally lie three to five eggs that are incubated by both parents for around three weeks. Nestlings fledge a month after hatching but are fed by the parents for up to 2 months. Once the breeding season comes to an end, individuals become nomadic and range widely.

The Glossy Ibis has an enormously wide distribution, and can be found in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia and most of Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, except the driest deserts and equatorial forests. In South Africa they are absent only from the driest portions of the Northern Cape Province. The IUCN estimates that there may be as many as 2.3-million of these birds on earth, and though some populations are declining (due mostly to loss of their wetland habitat) considers them to be of Least Concern in conservation terms.

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