White-faced Ibis

Scientific name: Plegadis chihi
Classification: Wading bird
Size: Height - approximately 19 inches, Weight – about 700 grams, Wingspan – average 37 inches



The white-faced ibis is a long-legged wading bird with reddish eyes and a long, slender, decurved bill. Plumage is chestnut colored with green and purple iridescent. During the breeding season, a white feather border can be seen around the base of the bill along with red lores and legs. Juveniles lack the white on the face and the red legs.


Life span:

The life span of white-faced ibis may reach 14 years.



White-faced ibis are found in various wetland habitats including marshes, swamps, ponds, rivers, irrigated agricultural lands, along shores, and in shallow water. They prefer freshwater. Preferred nesting habitat is flooded, emergent marsh vegetation associated with flooded fields or shallow wetlands for feeding.



The range of the white-faced ibis includes the west, central, and southeast united states and Alberta, Canada south through south America.


Natural history:

Northern populations are migratory while southern populations do not migrate. White-faced ibis may be found in large flocks, but most often are seen in smaller groups.


Food habits:

White-faced ibis feed on crayfish, frogs, fish, insects, newts, worms, and crustaceans. They probe moist ground with their bills to gather food.



White-faced ibis are colonial breeders. Colony size ranges from a few to over 10,000 individuals. They tend to show strong fidelity to certain preferred breeding colony sites. Nest construction begins around the beginning of may. Nests are found in marsh areas in a low tree, on the ground hidden among reeds, or on floating vegetation. Three to four eggs are laid and incubated for 21 to 22 days. The parents are monogamous and both care for the young. Young are independent by about 5 to 6 weeks. Water level stability is important in nesting areas. Nest colonies must remain flooded throughout the nesting period to deter mammalian predators, but water levels must not rise high enough to flood nests. Either of these conditions leads to abandonment of nests and reproductive failure.



White-faced ibis receive protection under the migratory bird treaty act and are state-protected in Nevada. They have received priority management status for over 25 years in Nevada. They are a lead species targeted for conservation in the Nevada partners in flight bird conservation plan.

It is estimated that as high as 59% of all the world’s white-faced ibis nest somewhere in the great basin province. The Lahontan valley is one of the most important white-faced ibis nesting colonies in the great basin.


Reason for status:

White-faced ibis were affected by contamination from the pesticide ddt in the 1970’s before it was banned resulting in the thinning of egg shells and reduction in reproductive success. Threats to the white-faced ibis include alterations to habitat, disturbance during nesting, pesticide contamination, a limited number of breeding locations, and fluctuating water levels within their habitat.


Management & conservation:

Preservation of suitable wetland habitats and maintenance of preferred breeding sites are essential to conservation of the white-faced ibis. Water level stability in breeding areas must be actively monitored and manipulated to prevent abandonment of nests by the ibis. Preservation of the breeding population of white-faced ibis in Nevada is critical to maintenance of the entire great basin population and its importance to the world’s population of white-faced ibis.


Fun facts:

These birds are wary and shy, making getting close to them difficult.