Ibis and Spoonbills: Threskiornithidae
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Types of Birds
The long legs, necks and bills of species in the Threskiornithidae family (Ibis and Spoonbills) serve as the families initial field identification clues.
Ibises bills, generally long and curved, are suited for poking around in mud searching for insects and invertebrates. Spoonbill bills, straighter with a round, spoon shape at the tip, work by skimming the water and closing when prey is caught.
The Threskiornithidae divide into fifteen genera and thirty-four species, with one extinct species, the Reunion Ibis (Threskiornis solitarius).
While they have a world wide distribution, most of the species inhabit wetlands in the Southern Hemisphere.
Additional family generalizations are difficult to make, because some species have small ranges, while other species such as the Glossy Ibis can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
Generally the species with the small ranges tend to experience population stresses and currently seven Threskiornithidae species are listed as either critically endangered or endangered
Four Threskiornithidae species can be found in the United States: White Ibis (Eudocimus albus); Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus); White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi); Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja).
Their large range, usually extending to South America, means that their aggregate populations are considered sufficient to maintain the species.
The white feathers and long, curved orange bill make the White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), top picture, a very distinctive looking bird.
It's a medium sized neotropical wading bird common along the Gulf Coast and Southeastern United States.
They are not very picky about their water habitat and will occupy fresh, brackish and salt water areas, where they spend their times searching for insects on the land and invertebrates in the water. Their bill is sufficiently long and sharp enough to peck in the mud of shallow water.
The White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi), a medium sized neotropical wading bird, inhabit freshwater habitats such as marshes and ponds of the Central Plains and California valleys during their summer breeding season.
A small, year round population resides along areas of the Gulf Coast, with the bulk of the population migrating as far south as Coastal Argentina during the winter.
They are very shy birds that travel in flocks. It is often difficult to get even as close as forty feet to them without their flying off.
The picture does not show the white face. It is much more apparent during breeding season.
Because they only inhabit the warm water coastal areas of South Florida and the Western Gulf Cost, from afar, the pink feathers of the Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) could be mistaken for a flamingo.
Nonetheless, they belong to another family of wading birds, the Ibis family.
The name spoonbill refers to the rounded end of the bill, used for scooping and filtering food from the water.
© 2008-2011 Patricia A. Michaels