Conservation Status– Least concern
The scarlet ibis is a bird which is bright red. The adult scarlet ibis measures about 55-63 centimetres. The male is typically slightly larger than the females. These males will weigh about 1.4kg. The scarlet ibis has a wingspan which typically measures 54 cm.
Only the wing tip deviates from the characteristic scarlet colour. These tips are black. Juveniles display a mix of greys, whites and blacks across their body. Like most wading birds they have long legs and a long neck. Their red colour is unlike any other shorebird in the world. During the second moult the bird begins to change from the blacks and greys to red. This progresses out from the back over a period of 2 years. The red colour comes from their diet being heavily focused on red crustaceans.
These birds will reach 16-20 years old in the wild. In captivity the average age reached is 20 years. One bird reached a record of 31 years.
The scarlet ibis obtains food by probing in the sand or under plants with its beak. They live on a diet of beetles, shrimps, insects, molluscs, small fish, crayfish and amphibians. In zoos their diet is regularly supplemented with beetroot and carrot to maintain the vibrant red colour.
The Scarlet Ibis is a resident of South America and some of the Caribbean islands. They can be found in Argentina, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago.They are most prolific in the Llanos region an area of western Venezuela and Eastern Colombia.
They inhabit wetlands and other areas of shoreline. They also range through mud flats, shorelines, mangroves, marshes and rainforest. They will gather near fresh and salt water estuaries.
Scarlet ibis breeding season begins in mid-September. The mating pair will build a simple nest consisting of a loose platform of sticks.
The male will preen, shake, bill pop, head rub and perform high flights to attract the attention of the female. Generally egg laying takes place from November to Janurary. There is a gestation period of just under a week before the female will lay a three to five eggs. These are then incubated between the male and the female for 19-23 days. The pair will remain faithful for the entire time they are raising the chicks.
When flying them form a V-shape. This makes flying easier and occasionally the bird at the front changes to reduce the fatigue this bird experiences. When flying the neck and legs are stretched out.
To gain safety they have been known to associate with storks, spoonbills, egrets, herons and ducks while flying or feeding.
The scarlet ibis is preyed upon by humans, big cats and birds of prey.
The scarlet ibis is the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago.
The scarlet ibis is closely related to the American white ibis with some biologists now calling for them to be listed as the same species.
The photos within this page are taken from Wikimedia commons. The top one was published there by Marco Freak under the creative commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license. The middle map was created by neutrality who released it into the public domain. The bottom picture was created by Nino Barbieri who shared it under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.