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Critical mass: Glossy Ibis are everywhere

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about discovering Glossy Ibis nesting in the Rainwater Basin.  This species has been increasing in the state since its first documented occurrence in 1999.  Glossy Ibis are similar in appearance to the more common White-faced Ibis.  White-faced Ibis have also increased in our state over the last several decades.  On Tuesday of this week, I found myself driving down Highway 2 between Lakeside and Antioch in Sheridan County and was amazed by the numbers of ibis.  I could not resist the opportunity to take a few moments to sift through the scattered groups of White-faced Ibis along the road to see whether I could find a Glossy Ibis.

Small flocks of White-faced Ibis were all along Highway 2 between Lakeside and Antioch.
Small flocks of White-faced Ibis were all along Highway 2 between Lakeside and Antioch.

It didn’t take much effort to find one Glossy Ibis, then another and so on.  In all, I identified about fifty ibis to species and found 3 Glossy Ibis and another one that appeared to be a Glossy, but it may actually be a hybrid.  I was able to snap a few photos of one Glossy Ibis and the apparent hybrid.

Glossy Ibis on a fence post
This Glossy Ibis was one of three, plus one apparent hybrid ibis, between Lakeside and Antioch in Sheridan County on 21 July. This may also be the fist documented occurrence of this species standing on a fence post in Nebraska (it will be up to the NOU Records Committee to make the final decision (this is not a serious remark, BTW)).

This year, I found a few Glossies with White-faced this spring, I found them nesting and now I’ve found more in the Sandhills, all without much effort.  Finding Glossy Ibis was simply a function of finding groups of plegadis ibis and having decent looks at the birds.

Glossy X White-faced Ibis
This ibis, which superficially appears to be a Glossy, is possibly a hybrid between Glossy and White-faced.

My experience with Glossy Ibis this year is leading me to suspect this bird is now uncommon or even fairly common in our state.  Their abundance is simply masked by the more numerous White-faced Ibis and also birder’s tendency to err on the side of caution, which they should do.  Longstanding conclusions about anything, including a bird’s abundance, should not change without evidence.  In my view, the evidence has reached critical mass.

Glossy X White-faced Ibis
A closer view of the bird in the image above. The subtle purplish and reddish tones in the facial skin and eye lead me to suspect this bird is not a pure Glossy Ibis.

The challenge with more Glossy Ibis and conceivably more breeding Glossy Ibis is that we may have to contend more and more with hybrids.  This will be just another reason to stop and look at ibis when traveling down the highway.

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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