Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The white-faced ibis, Plegadis chihi, is a marsh bird that breeds in the northwestern United States and the Great Basin, as well as in areas of Central America and South America. Northern populations are migratory, with individuals spending their winters in southern portions of California, Arizona, and Texas, and areas in Central America and South America. The preferred breeding habitat of the white-faced ibis is marshy freshwater areas, swamps, ponds, and rivers. It is likely that the largest white-faced ibis nesting colony in the world can be found in the marshes around the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Although the species is considered to be secure, population declines have been reported recently in North America. These declines are attributed to threats to the species' breeding habitat, such as the draining of wetlands and the application of pesticides and herbicides to rice crops.

The white-faced ibis primarily eats crayfish, but it also eat insects, earthworms, fishes, and small mammals. Breeding pairs are monogamous and they nest in small colonies. The pair builds the nest together, usually on the ground in aquatic vegetation or shrubs, though occasionally in a low tree. Three to four eggs are incubated, and both parents roost on the nest; the females roost at night and the males roost most of the day. The young hatch after an incubation period of approximately three weeks, and both parents care for the hatchlings. The adults regurgitate food for the young, which are immobile as hatchlings. The young leave the nest approximately one month after hatching.


  • Biological and Conservation Database. 2000. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Association for Biodiversity Information.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.