Bird of the Month March 2020

A White-faced Ibis in breeding plumage.

Photo by Terry Thomas.

White-faced Ibis

Plegadis chihi


White-faced Ibis are large birds with long, down-curved bills. Often described as maroon in color, the body is a rusty red or red-brown. In good light, the wings are iridescent green and bronze. They derive their name from a thin white line from the corner of the bill, around the back of the eye and across the forehead just above the bill. This white line is only present in breeding adults. Breeding adults also have a pink featherless patch in front of the eye and red legs. The eye is red and the bill is gray or blue-gray.

Behavior and Habitat

White-faced Ibis are social birds, often seen in large flocks flying or wading through marshy areas probing for invertebrates to eat. Flood irrigation on agricultural fields has been shown to be highly beneficial to White-faced Ibis. These fields replace wetlands that have been drained and used for agriculture or development. Efforts to promote flood irrigation would benefit White-faced Ibis and many other shore and wading birds.

The White-faced Ibis is also a colony nester, seeking out large areas of cattails where hundreds of pairs may nest very close to each other. They build their nests over water in bulrush and cattail habitat where they raise 3-5 youngsters.

The oldest known White-faced Ibis was 12 years and 3 months old when it was found sick, nursed back to health and released in California.

Similar Species

The White-faced Ibis and the Glossy Ibis are very similar but rarely share the same range. The White-faced Ibis is a bird of the Western U.S. and Mexico while the Glossy Ibis is an eastern bird.

There really aren’t other species that would readily confuse an observer.

When and where found at Camas NWR

According to the Camas NWR Bird List, White-faced Ibis are common in the springtime on the refuge and uncommon (meaning present but you may not see them) during summer and early fall. They have also been known to nest on the refuge. Watch for them in the marshes and in any surrounding agricultural land that may have been recently irrigated, especially if it was flood irrigated.


“White-faced Ibis populations are stable and increased between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental breeding population of over 100,000, rates the species a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Low Concern. White-faced Ibis is not listed on the 2014 State of the Birds Report.”

Text by Terry Thomas. Source:

Photo by Terry Thomas.