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Glossy Ibis nesting – a Nebraska first

The population increase and range expansion of the Glossy Ibis is one of the more interesting avian stories of the last quarter century.  Nebraska claimed it first documented record not that long ago in 1999.  In less than two decades since, Glossy Ibis have essentially become regular (annual) in occurrence in our state.  It is not unusual nowadays for multiple birds to be reported in a single season.  This species has also increased throughout the Great Plains and has been found nesting in Wyoming and Oklahoma (North American Birds 65:653).  These initial breeding records from the Great Plains involved hybridization with White-faced Ibis.  At some point in the future, it is expected to be found nesting in Nebraska.

Glossy and White-faced Ibis
Glossy Ibis (center) with White-faced Ibis and a Blue-winged Teal in Seward County on 8 May 2015.  Glossy Ibis and White-faced Ibis are very similar to one another and are best distinguished by differences in the facial pattern and eye color.  White-faced Ibis are much more common than Glossy Ibis in Nebraska.

The future occurred earlier this week when I was out in the Rainwater Basin surveying wetlands for nesting waterbirds.  Most the region’s wetland are full of water and marshes have a tendency to attract birds.  At one site, I found a colony of nesting White-faced Ibis deep in a patch of cattails.  This occurrence is noteworthy by itself since the Rainwater Basin still claims fewer than ten nesting records for this species.   In addition to White-faced Ibis, three nests were being tended to by Glossy Ibis, one of which remained over the nest and allowed me to capture a few photos before it flew away.

Nesting Glossy Ibis
This Glossy Ibis, standing over its nest, was one of three recently discovered in the Rainwater Basin. This represents the first known nesting by this species in Nebraska.

My visit to this nesting colony was very brief to limit disturbance to the birds.   Thus, I did not take the time to determine whether the Glossy Ibises I observed on nests were paired with other Glossy Ibis or White-faced Ibis.  This is obviously an important question that will likely remain unanswered.

Glossy Ibis nest
The nest the Glossy Ibis was first observed sitting on and then standing over in the photo, above.  The two other two Glossy Ibis nests had one and four eggs, respectively.  It is possible the Glossy Ibises are late arrivals to the colony and may still add eggs to their clutches.

Even though I know this nesting record is a Nebraska first, I am unsure how many other Glossy Ibis nesting records there are for adjacent states and the Great Plains.   In addition to Wyoming and Oklahoma, Glossy Ibis were found nesting in South Dakota in 2012 (North American Birds 66:695).  Events are happening quickly on the Glossy Ibis front and additional nesting records discovered in just the last year or two in nearby states may not be well publicized at this time.

White-faced Ibis nest
Many of the White-faced Ibis nests I observed had young.  Who wouldn’t love that face?

First state records are always noteworthy.  If you are interested in reading about another first state nesting record, check out  the nice story by Justin Haag detailing Wayne Mollhoff’s saga to document nesting Northern Saw-whet Owls in Nebraska.

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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