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Scarlet ibis

Eudocimus ruber

Description: The Scarlet ibis is unmistakable due to its brilliant scarlet coloration. Only the wingtips are a glossy blackish-blue. It is a wading bird, so the legs are long and thin and the feet are partially webbed. The neck is long and slender and the bill is long, thin and curved downward. If the diet is deficient in carotenoid pigments, the plumage will turn pink. Juveniles are a dull grayish-brown.

Size: Adult Scarlet ibises reach 22-30 inches (56- 76 cm) in length from the tip of the bill to the end of the tail; weight is approximately three pounds (1.35 kg). The male is larger than the female and also has a longer, thicker bill. Wingspan is 3-3.2 feet (0.9-1 m).

Behavior: This is a highly communal species with large congregations at nesting and feeding sites. They are strong fliers but are usually seen wading in shallow water as they look for prey. Food is found by rooting through the mud with their long, curved bills.

Diet: Their diet includes crustaceans, mollusks, fish, insects and small snakes.

Senses: Eyesight is excellent but their sense of touch is outstanding when probing for food.

Communication: They are rather quiet but can make grunt, croak, honk or squeal if courting, warning of danger or protecting their young.

Reproduction: They congregate in colonies of several hundred at breeding time, nesting on dense brush and mangrove-covered islands and shore areas near river mouths. Usually three to five eggs are laid and incubated for 19-23 days. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Nests are usually made of mud, sticks and vegetation and located near lakes, on islands, in slow-flowing rivers, swamps and mud areas.

Habitat/range: They prefer mud flats, estuaries, shorelines and shallow bays in northern South America, from Venezuela to eastern Brazil.

Status: Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.