Sanibel Island is home to an abundance of wildlife and birdwatchers. One of the most easily identified and familiar Sanibel Island birds, the white ibis wanders widely in search of crustaceans and other prey. In good light, these birds gleam when set against a marshy backdrop, and you can tell them from herons by their outstretched necks and flap-and-glide flight. Stragglers may be found alone, but most often white ibis are seen in small or large flocks. An adult white ibis is easy to identify—whether at rest, feeding, or flying—thanks to its red legs and red, down-curved bill, which stand out on an otherwise white bird. In flight, the wing tips flash black, as if they have been dipped in ink. Immature birds can be quickly differentiated from all-dark glossy ibis by their whitish underparts and orange bills, and by white back patches that are often visible when birds are molting into adult plumage. More about the White Ibis Here
View and download J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Bird Identification Guide Here
During the breeding season, the American white ibis gathers in huge colonies near water. Pairs are predominantly monogamous and both parents care for the young, although males tend to engage in extra-pair copulation with other females to increase their reproductive success. Males have also been found to pirate food from unmated females and juveniles during the breeding season.
The American white ibis is most common in Florida, where over 30,000 have been counted in a single breeding colony. It also occurs throughout the Caribbean, on both coasts of Mexico (from Baja California southwards) and Central America, and as far south as Columbia and Venezuela. The non-breeding range extends further inland, reaching north to Virginia, and west to eastern Texas.
In North America, breeding takes place along the Atlantic coast, from the Carolinas south to Florida and thence west along the Gulf Coast. Laguna Cuyutlán is an isolated and regionally important wetland in the state of Colima on México’s west coast where a breeding colony has been recorded. American white ibises are not faithful to the sites where they breed, and large breeding colonies composed of ten thousand birds or more can congregate and disband in one or two breeding seasons. Breeding populations across its range have fluctuated greatly with wholesale movement between states.
Great place to bird watch on the Islands is at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.