Sunday, November 22, 2009

The White Ibis on Bird Island

Photo by K.Verdeck

The White Ibis
The " Bird of the Week" has a way of picking itself, as did this bird of the week, for instance.
I was cruising through the lagoon river and a white bird flew over that seemed to be carrying a twig in its bill. I watched it, hoping it would reveal a nest in the mangrove hollow, when I noticed it wasn't carrying a twig at all; it was just the proud owner of the longest, most odd-shaped nose (bill), I've seen since Jimmy Durante. Another in the order of Ciconiiformes from the family of Threskiorenithidae is this 'white ibis'. Flying above, it can be distinguished from an egret by its outstretched neck and black wing tips that look like five black fingers on each wing, of course, if you're close enough, a long slender decurved bill. One bird book calls it sickle-shaped; it reminds me of a Hermit Hummingbird's bill, only big. The ibis uses it as a specialized tool for eating animals from the lagoon's shallow bottom.
I watched it walk for a few minutes. It steps forward a step and extends its neck forward with each step, cocks its head to point one eye downward, then quickly puts its special bill to work. I had hoped to hear the soft, grunting noise I read that they make while eating and hunting, but I disturbed it by getting to close, and it made its alarm noise instead, and flew off. It nests inside the mangrove tree for protection, not on top but in the middle. The mangrove grows like bars around its nests that prevent things like me from even getting close. I've only seen six white ibis on this island; three flying along the coast at Basil Jones, one in San Pedro lagoon, one at the Costa Del Maya lagoon.