Description: Measuring up to 30 inches in length, flocks of these birds with the backdrop of a clear blue sky makes for a surreal and breathtaking sight. Adults are entirely vivid pink or red with red legs, and a typical ibis-like long, downcurved bill. The wingtips are black. Juveniles and immatures are grayish or brown. The bright coloration comes from their shellfish diet. Birds in captivity are often less vivid in coloration.
In the wild, the Scarlet Ibis is a social bird, traveling or roosting in large or medium-sized flocks. Ibises fly in v-formations (similar to geese) which decreases wind resistance for trailing birds. In this formation, individual birds take turns in leading the flock. The Scarlet Ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago.
Diet: Shrimp, crustaceans, mollusks and insects. The ibis uses its uniquely adapted downcurved bill to probe the sand and mud for prey.
Habitat/Range: The Scarlet ibis is found in coastal swamps, wetlands, and mudflats of central America and northern South America. They occasionally wander to the southern coasts of Florida.
Breeding: Because the Scarlet Ibis nests in impenetrable stands of mangroves in swamps and lagoons, their reproductive habits are poorly known. Both males and females build the bulky nest, usually placed in the middle heights of thick mangroves. The female lays two or three eggs which are incubated for a little more than three weeks. Ibis chicks are fed by the parents, who regurgitate food into the mouths of the chicks.
Status:The Scarlet Ibis is thought to be in decline over much of its range due to habitat destruction, egg hunting, fishing practices and overhunting. Populations in parts of Brazil have been totally extirpated. Some scientists have suggested boycotting fish harvested from South America, because the destructive fishing practices result in the clearing of crucial mangrove stalks that provide homes for numerous species. In the Amazon region, these birds are sometimes kept as pets where they are valued in insect control.