Scarlet Ibis

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Name: Scarlet Ibis
Scientific name: Eudocimus ruber
Range: Central America and Northern South America
Habitat: Tropical regions and rainforests
Status: Not threatened.
Diet in the wild: insects, fish, meat, seeds, and fruits
Diet in the zoo: crustaceans, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and some vegetable matter.
Location in the zoo:  currently not on exhibit

Physical description: Body length 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61 centimeters) Color is bright red in both sexes, with a long neck, long curved probing bill, black tipped feathers, and perching feet that are only slightly webbed.  .
General information: The Scarlet Ibis is one of the most striking sights in the world of birds, flying, feeding and nesting in large groups.  Some birds, especially those in the tropics, stay in the same general area throughout life. The Scarlet Ibis is classified with other birds of tropical America who have few or no close relatives except in other tropical regions. 

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Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations: The uniformly bright-red plumage of the Scarlet Ibis intensifies as the bird grows older.  As with flamingos, the brilliant red color of the bird comes from pigments in the bodies of crustaceans on which it feeds.  The long curved beak is used to probe for food in mud and shallow water, guided mostly  by touch.  It flies strongly with its neck extended, almost as if it were gliding. Like other birds, Scarlet Ibis fights with their beak, legs, and wings against enemies in order to protect themselves and their offspring. 
Other Facts about the Scarlet Ibis

  • The bird uses its long beak in a process called preening to clean and smooth its feathers. 
  • The males perform courtship displays (attention-getting movements or songs) to attract a mate. 
  • No South American birds migrate to North America. 
  • Ibises nest in large breeding colonies.  Both parents cooperate in building the nest -- a loose pile of sticks -- and in caring for the young birds.  . 
  • The female ibis lays two or three dull green eggs streaked with brown.  After 23 days of incubation, the young hatchling is able to leave the nest. 
  • The young are first featherless, and then a dark brownish color, which slowly changes to the red of their parents as they age. 
  • Few people know that birds play a vital role in the overall balance of the world's environment. 
(Ibises and Spoonbills at the Fort Worth Zoo)
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Personal Observations: The feet of the Scarlet Ibis are used to grip tree branches and help them stay balanced. They eat mollusks and crustaceans, two of the organisms we studied in lab. The shade of red that the Scarlet Ibis has is unique and beautiful. 
Related Links:

Scarlet Ibis at the Hogle Zoo
Picture of a Scarlet Ibis from Moody Gardens, Galveston
Scarlet Ibis at the Philadelphia Zoo

These links might be interesting if you would like to see different kinds of birds who are featured at these zoos.

Page author: Tonya Townson
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Source list:
The World Book Encyclopedia vol.2 1994 Edition; 
Academic American Encyclopedia vol. 3 1993 Edition; 
A Guide to the Birds of South America by R.M. de Schauensee