Flight of Juvenile Ibises © 2022 J. Dean

Birds, Birding

Wonders in the Sky

A flight of birds made my day, but what were they?

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Last Tuesday I was on the hunt for roseate spoonbills. I can’t get enough of them. I took my camera with the hopes of getting a couple of close-ups. Alas, the spoonbills didn’t show.

As I walked back to my car, I noticed a flight of birds in the distance. At first, I thought they were limpkins. I managed to get a few shots in before they flew away.

When I got home, I downloaded the shots to look at the birds. No limpkins were to be found. Instead, I thought, it was a group of juvenile ibises.

Juvenile ibises are easily confused with limpkins because both are brown. The principal difference, I think, is that the ibis bill is more curved. Other than that, the two birds appear to be the same size and engage in very similar behaviors.

Did I photograph a group of juvenile ibises? I almost reached this conclusion but then decided to consult Fred Alsop’s Birds of Florida. Right next to the page of white ibises is the page on the glossy ibis. Alsop writes:

From a distance this large bird with a dark decurved bill appears dark overall in the freshwater or saltwater marshes frequents, but closer observation reveals deep chestnut plumage glossed with metallic greens and purples.

Upon reading this, I returned to my photograph. Maybe the birds' plumage included deep chestnut, greens, and purples, but I can’t swear to it.

My opinion is that the birds are glossy ibises. Do you agree?

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John Dean

Writing on politics, photography, nature, the environment, dogs, and, occasionally, humor. Editor of Dean’s List.