IBISES AND SPOONBILLS – Threskiornithidae

IBISES AND SPOONBILLS

IBISES AND SPOONBILLS FACTS

Ibises and spoonbills are alike in many ways, but their long bills are very different. The ibises’ bills are thin and they curve downward. Spoonbills’ spoon-shaped bills are flat and wide at the tip. Both ibises and spoonbills are medium to large wading birds, birds that walk through shallow water in search of food. Most of them have bare faces and throats, they have long necks and legs, and many of them have colorful feathers. They range in length from 19 to 43 inches (48 to 110 centimeters) from the tip of their bills to their tails, and they weigh between 1.5 and 5.5 pounds (0.5 and 2.5 kilograms).

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Ibises and spoonbills are spread widely across the world where the temperatures are moderate or warm.

IBISES AND SPOONBILLS HABITAT

Most ibises and spoonbills live in wetlands or in wooded areas near water, but some can be found in dry grasslands and on mountains. They are also attracted to farms and rice fields.

IBISES AND SPOONBILLS DIET

Spoonbills and ibises usually use their sensitive bills to hunt by touch in shallow water or mud. They eat mostly small fish, water insects, frogs, shrimp, and other small water animals. Some of them also eat carrion, dead animals, and feed at garbage dumps.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

When spoonbills and ibises fly, they stick their necks and legs straight out. They are sociable birds, and they usually feed and roost in large groups. It is not unusual to find them with other species of wading birds, including storks and herons. Many of them also move around with big flocks and they breed in large groups called colonies. The parents share the work of building the nest, sitting on the eggs, and feeding as many as five chicks.

IBISES AND SPOONBILLS, AND PEOPLE

For 5,000 years, ibises have been honored in the religions of some people, while others thought the birds brought bad luck. Ibises were carved on ancient Greek coins, and in the Middle Ages, noblemen ate ibises as a special treat. In the 1800s, some species of ibises and spoonbills were hunted for their beautiful feathers.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Many spoonbills and ibises are threatened because their wetlands are being drained and taken over by people for building projects and farms. In some countries, people hunt them, and they are still being harmed by dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane, DDT, an insect poison that causes the birds’ eggshells to break easily. The reunion flightless ibis became extinct in 1705, and four other species are listed as Critically Endangered, which means they are facing am extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Two more species are Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild, and several more are close to being threatened.