The bird world is changing. It always has been and always will be in a constant state of flux. Some species are declining and withdrawing from parts of their range and others are increasing and expanding their range. While sometimes these population changes are easily explained, such as an introduced species that is successful in human-created environs pioneering in a new land or a species with a specific habitat requirement that is declining because the habitat it requires is being destroyed. Then, there are species that go against the grain, whose increase or decline is not readily explainable.
Wetlands, of all shapes and size, have been reduced considerably since European settlement. Thus, it should come as no surprise that many wetland-dependent species have declined. A few species have bucked the trend and one is the White-faced Ibis.
For most of the 20th Century, the White-faced Ibis was absent or rare in Nebraska. Then, say, from about the 1960s, White-faced Ibis started to show up. This continued and the rate of increase accelerated with time and, today, White-faced Ibis are found statewide during spring and fall migration and occasionally in relatively large (dozens) numbers. White-faced Ibis have also bred in wetlands of the Sandhills and the Rainwater Basin. They build their platform nests on emergent vegetation, such as cattails, over a couple or a few feet of water. The Sandhills and Rainwater Basin are also the same areas where the largest concentrations are often observed. White-faced Ibis forage in shallow wetland habitats.
White-faced Ibises also have a unique appearance. Dark chocolate body coloration with iridescence on the wings. Then, there is that long decurved (down-curved) bill. Definitely a creature you’d stop and wonder about if one day you see on for the first time. I receive a call or email, from the public, every so often where the unknown bird the person just saw ends up being a White-faced Ibis.
Back to White-faced Ibis increases. White-faced Ibis were traditionally found along the western Gulf Coast and the Intermountain West. Prior to the recent colonization, White-faced Ibis did not regularly occur in the Great Plains. However, there were occasional, early, records (before 1950) and these birds likely originated from the Gulf Coast. The source for the recent colonization is most logically the Intermountain West.
More about this can be found here http://tinyurl.com/6u24n7p.
Maybe one of these days I’ll write about the White-faced Ibis cousin, the Glossy Ibis, which is another species on the increase.