They say camouflage offers protection by blending an animal or bird in with their surroundings. Well, camouflage definitely works for immature White Ibises! Walking along a trail, I had no idea they were even there until my presence spooked them and they took to flight. By the way, the Ibises spooked me, too! There were about 20 in the flock as they circled in the air several times before landing in the swamp again.
A Few Facts about White Ibises (Eudocimus albus)
- Size: 25 inches high. Wingspan: 38 inches wide
- Nest: Made from sticks, reeds. Usually near water…on low matted plant material or in a shrub. Look up for it at about 7 to 15 feet above the ground and water. Nests in colonies.
- Sometimes ventures of its range during summer
- Adults are white with an orange-red bill and legs.
- Food: crustaceans, fish, insects around water…Note: This area has lots of small fish and crayfish.
- Likes fresh water over salt
- Seen in groups
- Year-round resident in North Carolina. Check your local field guides for occurrence of this bird in your area.
This is How the Birding Trip Began…
It was mid-afternoon, hot, high 90’s and partly cloudy.Thank goodness a light breeze was blowing because the humidity was very high. Due to no rain for quite a while, the fair amount of water that’s usually there was not present. Muddy flats with large puddles dominated the swamp.
Having never seen these birds before at this location, I assumed from best I could observe that their curved beaks, wings and legs meant that they were Ibises. Since this open swamp with full of downed trees, I would have probably not even have noticed them if they hadn’t flown. With the various shades of brown, gray, tan and white decaying downed trees, the birds blended in COMPLETELY. In fact, they were SO well camouflaged, that even though I knew they were back on the ground with all the logs, I could hardly even find them to photograph them.
See if You Can Find the immature White Ibises!
Check out the two photographs below. Now don’t cheat! Look at the first one and see how many Ibises you can find.
Now, look at the SAME photo below.
So now that you know what to look for, find them in the photo below:
Again as before, the same photo you just looked at:
Now photo below…can you find the Ibises? There are three Ibises in this photo below.
Again, the same photo below:
So What’s the Deal with the Camouflage of a White Ibis?
Being hard to spot, helps perpetuate a species by protecting their young through camouflage. Googling “camouflage” gives a great amount of information. However, these two types of camouflage work very well:
- Hiding the color: For example, think of a white rabbit in the white snow. Now, think of a bird. If its color blends with the coloration of the background, a predator will have a difficult time seeing the bird. Take the immature White Ibises in this post. They actually are protected from view in their habitat by the similar color of their feathers in comparison to their environment. Question to ponder: Do these Ibises instinctively know to fly in search of land/water in an area to forage in which they will be camouflaged? Or, do they go strictly by looking for water with food options?
- Color markings: Ever noticed the stripes, color blocks, colors showing up like streaks from a paint brush on certain birds? Think about the habitat you’ve seen them in. Those very effects, in the right location, can keep you from even noticing the outline so that you’re unaware that you’re even looking at a bird at all. The lines and streaks disguise them among twigs, branches, dirt, water, clouds, etc. thereby making their outline even visible at all. They break up the outline and shape by use of markings to go undetected.
What Else Contributes to the immature White Ibises’ Disguise?
Back to the camouflaged White Ibises…there were NO adult White Ibises with them…was totally the white, gray, brownish ones here at this swamp. The two forms of “camo” listed above, worked like a charm. Had they not been spooked as I was walking the trail and went airborne, I would have never seen them at all.
- Camouflage works with nests as well. The nests of birds are camouflaged in their locations as well during their breeding season. Late fall and winter are excellent times to observe old nests in deciduous trees. Notice when you find them what they’re made with. Look at the branches, vines, shrubs that would conceal them when the host tree/shrub leafs out. How visible, in fact, would the nest even be to you? Speaking of nests, the female birds sitting in the nest tend to be much duller in color and lack the bright colored markings of their male counterparts. The females, too, blend in to this observation filter.
- Draw a simple map of where the nest is and later in the spring, pay attention to what or if a bird uses it. See how the camouflage works to protect them during nesting time. Moss, leaves, twigs, paper, snakeskin, etc. give markings to the nest to hide it. Notice how the materials play a part in this disguise. Does even the type of tree give a disguise as well? Are the vines looking similar to the nest that is resting in them?
Look Twice…and Hard!
As many times as I’ve been to this spot, this helped me realize just what I may have been missing. Details usually catch my eye, but this time the details were disguised against their background. Take a closer look next time you’re out birding. There’s no telling what you might find!
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These are the books I used as reference for some of this post on the White Ibises: