Scarlet ibis

The flocks of this striking self-descriptive bird are a sight to behold

Scarlet Ibis is one of the most vividly colored birds in the world, with its intense red plumage making it a stunning spectacle against the green backdrop of its natural habitat. Native to tropical South America and the Caribbean islands, this species inhabits a variety of wetland environments, including mangroves, marshes, and tidal flats.

The brilliant scarlet color of the adult birds is a result of their diet, which is rich in carotenoids – pigments found in certain crustaceans and other invertebrates that the birds consume. These pigments are metabolized and deposited in the feathers, and the intensity of the color can be an indicator of the bird’s health and diet quality. In contrast, juveniles start with a more muted brown and white coloration and gradually acquire the adult’s scarlet hue as they mature and their diet changes.

Scarlet Ibises are highly sociable, nesting and feeding in large colonies that can include other bird species. These colonies can be quite spectacular, not only visually but also in terms of the noise and activity level. The birds are known to fly considerable distances in search of suitable feeding grounds, particularly favoring areas where freshwater meets the sea.

Their long, curved beaks are perfectly adapted for probing into soft mud to extract their prey, which includes crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs, as well as insects and small fish. This foraging behavior is essential not only for their survival but also for the development of their iconic coloration.

The species is known for its complex social structures and behaviors. During the breeding season, males perform elaborate courtship displays to attract females. Once paired, they exhibit strong fidelity to their nesting sites and partners. Both parents are involved in the care of the young, who are fed a regurgitated mix of food from both mother and father.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Argentina
2016
Aruba
2016
Non-Breeding
Belize
2016
Non-Breeding
Brazil
2016
Colombia
2016
Cuba
2016
Non-Breeding
Dominica
2016
Non-Breeding
Ecuador
2016
Non-Breeding
French Guiana
2016
Grenada
2016
Non-Breeding
Guyana
2016
Jamaica
2016
Vagrant
Panama
2016
Non-Breeding
Suriname
2016
Trinidad & Tobago
2016
United States
2016
Non-Breeding
Venezuela
2016

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No