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Threskiornithidae Index – Ibises And Spoonbills
Threskiornithidae Index - Spoonbills And Ibises

Threskiornithidae Index – Ibises And Spoonbills

Ibises are wading birds of the Threskiornithidae family. They fall under the order Pelicaniiformes, together with spoonbills. Waders are a diverse group of birds that feed by wading through shallow waters. To facilitate this, they typically have long legs. Many waders also have long, flexible necks and long bills for foraging in water or spearing prey. Birds in this group also include herons, storks, cranes, and flamingos.

Ibises and Spoonbills are closely related. Their most striking difference is in bill shape, with the Ibises having curved bills and the Spoonbills having straight bills that are broad at the end. Ibises use their bills to probe in mud, while Spoonbills move their side to side in the water to catch prey. Dietary items include crustaceans, mollusks, fish, insects, amphibians, reptiles, and even small mammals and carrion. At night they roost in trees that are near and often overhanging water.

Ibises

1. Genus Bostrychia

1.1. Hadeda Ibis, Bostrychia hagedash

Hadeda Ibis
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The Hadeda Ibis has gray and partially brown plumage with iridescent purple and green. It has white cheek stripes, a white neck and breast, and blackish legs. Its bill is grayish with red near the base of the upper bill.

Range: Sub-Saharan Africa.

Habitat: Savanna, grasslands, wetlands, and suburban areas. They are common in parks, gardens, and cemeteries.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Similar species:

  • Wattled Ibis – The hadeda has white cheek stripes and the wattled ibis has a brown head and wattles.
  • White Ibis (juveniles) – The white ibis is found in the USA.
Hadeda Ibis closeup
Image By Cristiano Crolle
Hadeda Ibis habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

1.2. Olive Ibis, Bostrychia olivacea

Olive Ibis
Image By Michal Porebiak
Olive Ibis closeup
Image By Merrittimages

Description: A small dusky ibis with iridescent green in its body plumage. It has a gray-brown head and dark blue tail coverts.

Range: Tropical parts of Africa.

Habitat: Dense forests.

Conservation status: Least concern.

1.3. São Tomé Ibis, Bostrychia bocagei

São Tomé Ibis
Image By Nik Borrow
São Tomé Ibis closeup
Image By Nik Borrow

Description: The São Tomé Ibis has a slightly bronzed mantle and wing-coverts, a dull olive head, and blackish around the eyes.

Range: São Tomé off the western coast of central Africa.

Habitat: Primary forests.

Conservation status: The São Tomé ibis is critically endangered, mainly due to habitat loss and introduced species.

1.4. Spot-Breasted Ibis, Bostrychia rara

Spot-Breasted Ibis
Image By Kani

Description: The spot-breasted Ibis has a buff-colored spotted neck and breast.

Range: Tropical parts of Africa.

Habitat: Forests and swamps.

Conservation status: Although it is classified as least concern. The spot-breasted ibis is a rare bird with few confirmed sightings.

1.5. Wattled Ibis, Bostrychia carunculate

Wattled Ibis
Image By Veli

Description: The Wattled Ibis has mainly brown plumage, white shoulder patches, and a thin wattle attached to the base of the bill. It is similar to the hadeda ibis but the latter has white cheek stripes and no wattles and the wattled Ibis has a brown head.

Range: Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Habitat: Rocky cliffs, open country, farmlands, forests, parks, and gardens.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Wattled Ibis closeup
Image By Nik Borrow
Wattled Ibis habitat
Image By Colleen Taugher

2. Genus Cercibis

There is only one species in this genus.

2.1. Sharp-Tailed Ibis, Cercibis oxycerca

Sharp-Tailed Ibis
Image By Carlos Siegert

Description: The sharp-tailed Ibis has an elongated body shape, a glossy black plumage, and short red wattles.

Range: Northern South America.

Habitat: Wet savannah, riverbanks, grasslands, and gallery forests.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Sharp-Tailed Ibis habitat
Image By Miguel Jacques
Sharp-Tailed Ibis closeup
Image By Barloventomagico

3. Genus Eudocimus

3.1. Scarlet Ibis, Eudocimus ruber

Scarlet Ibis
Image By Dick Daniels
Scarlet Ibis distribution
Image By Casliber

Description: The scarlet ibis has bright scarlet-red plumage with black wingtips, a pinkish-red bill and legs, and dark eyes.

Range: They are native to South America and the Caribbean. Introduced populations have established in North America by birds escaping captivity.

Habitat: Wetlands, marshes, swamps, rainforests, tropical grasslands, mudflats, and coastal environments.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Scarlet Ibis closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Scarlet Ibis juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels
Scarlet Ibis feathering
Image By Sandy Cole
Scarlet Ibis near the water
Image By Sandy Cole

3.4. White Ibis (American White Ibis), Eudocimus albus

White Ibis
Image By Dick Daniels
White Ibis distribution
Image By Casliber

Description: The White Ibis has mainly white plumage with black-tipped wings.

Range: Southern USA to South America and the Caribbean.

Habitat: Fresh and saltwater marshes, wetlands, mangrove swamps, mudflats ponds, and flooded fields.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Similar species:

  • Australian White Ibis; Black-Headed Ibis – Range does not overlap.
  • Limpkin – The juvenile white ibis has a white belly, whereas the limpkin has a dark belly.
  • Scarlet Ibis (juveniles) – White ibises occur in the USA.
White Ibis closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
White Ibis juvenile
Image By Alan. D. Watson
White Ibis feathering
Image By Dick Daniels

4. Genus Geronticus

The bald ibises have bald heads which gives them a vulture-like appearance. They also differ from other ibises by breeding on cliffs rather than trees and preferring arid locations to wetlands. Unlike other ibises, they are not wading birds.

4.1. Northern Bald Ibis, (Waldrapp), Geronticus eremita

Northern Bald Ibis
Image By Agustin Povedano

Description: The northern bald Ibis has glossy black plumage, a bald red crown and face, and a curved red bill.

Range: Morocco and possibly parts of the Middle East. It is extinct in most of its former range.

Habitat: Coastal, dry, or semi-desert environments. They nest along cliff ledges.

Conservation status: It is critically endangered a population of about 500 birds due to human disturbance and loss of habitat.

Northern Bald Ibis closeup
Image By Cristiano Crolle
Northern Bald Ibis habitat
Image By Agustin Povedano

4.2. Southern Bald Ibis, Geronticus calvus

Southern Bald Ibis
Image By Dick Daniels
Southern Bald Ibis closeup
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The southern bald ibis has glossy black plumage, a bald red crown and face, and a curved red bill.

Range: Southern Africa.

Habitat: Mountainous grasslands. They nest along cliff ledges.

Conservation status: The southern bald ibis is classified as vulnerable due to human disturbance and habitat destruction.

Southern Bald Ibis habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Southern Bald Ibis distribution
Image By Sarefo

5. Genus Lophotibis

There is only one species in this genus.

5.1. Madagascar Crested Ibis, Lophotibis cristata

Madagascar Crested Ibis
Image By Eric Savage

Description: The Madagascar crested ibis has mostly brown plumage, with a glossy greenish-blue head, red orbital skin, red legs, a yellow bill, and white wings.

Range: Madagascar.

Habitat: High altitude forests and woodlands.

Conservation status: The Madagascar crested ibis is classified as near-threatened due to unsustainable hunting and habitat loss.

Madagascar Crested Ibis closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Madagascar Crested Ibis habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

6. Genus Mesembrinibis

There is only one species in this genus.

6.1. Green Ibis, Mesembrinibis cayennensis

Green Ibis
Image By Claudio Timm

Description: The green ibis has mainly green plumage, a pale green bill and legs, and gray facial skin patches.

Range: Central and South America.

Habitat: Forest wetlands, swamps, and the edges of rivers and lakes.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Green Ibis closeup
Image By Blake Matheson
Green Ibis feathering
Image By Alastair Rae

7. Genus Nipponia

7.1. Crested Ibis, Nipponia nippon

Crested Ibis
Image By Danielinblue

Description: The crested Ibis has white plumage, with red bare skin on head.

Range: A small population occurs in Shaanxi, Japan. They are extinct in most parts of their former range. They are now mainly found in captive environments in China, South Korea, and Japan.

Habitat: Forests, wet meadows, rice paddies, and river edges.

Conservation status: The crested ibis is endangered due to habitat loss, limited food resources, indiscriminate persecution, and the challenges of a limited range.

8. Genus Phimosus

There is only one species in this genus.

8.1. Bare-Faced Ibis, Phimosus infuscatus

Bare-Faced Ibis
Image By Gustavo Duran

Description: The bare-faced ibis has a dark brown to black plumage with a tinge of iridescent blue-green, a bare face, and a long pinkish-red bill.

Range: South America.

Habitat: Savannah, wet meadows, rice paddies, savannas, swamps, marshes, and other wetland environments.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Bare-Faced Ibis closeup
Image By Cláudio Timm
Bare-Faced Ibis habitat
Image By Barloventomagico

9. Genus Plegadis

The Plegadis genus is probably most closely related to the Eudocimus genus. Eudocimus is the older lineage.

9.1. Giant Ibis, Pseudibis gigantea

Giant Ibis
Image By Henrik Gronvold

Description: The largest of the ibises. It has grayish-brown plumage, a bald grayish head with dark stripes across the back, a yellowish-brown bill, orange legs, and dark red eyes.

Range: Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. It has disappeared from most of its former range.

Habitat: Lowland marshes, swamps, flooded plains, wet meadows, forests, river edges, and lakesides.

Conservation status: The giant ibis is critically endangered due to habitat destruction and human disturbance.

9.2. Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy Ibis
Image By Alan D. Wilson

Description: The glossy Ibis has glossy reddish-brown plumage, green wings, a brownish bill, dark facial skin, and reddish-brown legs. Nonbreeding birds and juveniles are duller.

Range: The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Habitat: Densely vegetated wetlands, swamps, and marshes near lakes and rivers. They also occur around lagoons, floodplains, wet meadows, and irrigated farmland.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Similar species:

  • Limpkin – The glossy ibis is darker and its bill is more curved than the limpkin’s.
  • White-Faced Ibis – The nonbreeding lossy ibis and white-faced ibis are very similar. The glossy ibis has dark eyes, whereas the white-faced ibis has reddish eyes. Also, the breeding white-faced Ibis has a white border around its face.
Glossy Ibis closeup
Image By Mehmet Karatay
Glossy Ibis feathering
Image By Sylvan De Munck
Glossy Ibis juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels
Glossy Ibis closeup
Image By Agustin_Povedano

9.3. Puna Ibis, Plegadis ridgwayi

Puna Ibis
Image By Francesco Veronesi

Description: A dark ibis with a chestnut-colored head and neck, and reddish facial skin which is brighter during the breeding season. Nonbreeding birds and juveniles have white streaks on the head and neck.

Range: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.

Habitat: Swamps, marshes, and lakes.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Puna Ibis closeup
Image By Thomas Quine
Puna Ibis habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

9.4. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

White-Faced Ibis
Image By Nebirdsplus
White-Faced Ibis closeup
Image By Dan Pancamo

Description: The white-faced ibis has a bare pink face bordered by white feathers. It has a gray bill, red legs, and reddish eyes. Nonbreeding birds lack the white coloration on the face. It is similar to the glossy ibis but the white-faced ibis has reddish eyes and the glossy ibis does not have a white face.

Range: Western USA to South America.

Habitat: Shallow wetlands and irrigated crop fields.

Conservation status: Least concern.

White-Faced Ibis habitat
Image By Kevin Cole
White-Faced Ibis distribution
Image By Cláudio Timm
White-Faced Ibis adult
Image By Alan D. Wilson

9.5. White-Shouldered Ibis, Pseudibis davisoni

White-Shouldered Ibis

Description: A large ibis with an overall dark plumage with a white neck ring and pale nape and shoulder patches (mainly visible in flight).

Range: Southwestern China to Myanmar, peninsular Thailand, and Indochina.

Habitat: Lowland forests, rice fields, shrubby grasslands, river edges, and lakesides.

Conservation status: The small population is critically endangered due to habitat loss.

10. Genus Pseudibis

10.1. Red-Naped Ibis (Black Ibis), Pseudibis papillosa

Red-Naped Ibis
Image By J M Garg

Description: The red-naped Ibis has a dark black and brown plumage. It has a crimson patch on the head and a white patch near the shoulder.

Range: Indian subcontinent.

Habitat: Marshes, lakes, riverbeds, and irrigated agricultural fields.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Red-Naped Ibis closeup
Image By Niraj Mistry
Red-Naped Ibis habitat
Image By Jan Arendtsz
Red-Naped Ibis habitat in flight
Image By Charlene Wood

11. Genus Theristicus

Found in open, grassy habitats in South America. All have a long, decurved dark bill, relatively short reddish legs that do not extend beyond the tail in flight, at least the back is gray.

11.1. Black-Faced Ibis, Theristicus melanopis

Black-Faced Ibis
Image By Cláudio Timm

Description: The black-faced ibis has a striking plumage in contrasting shades of gray, buff, brown, and white with a prominent dark band across the lower breast. It has dark eyes, a blackish bill, and red legs. It is similar to the buff-necked ibis but the latter has large, white wing patches.

Range: The southern parts of South America, further south than the similar buff-necked ibis.

Habitat: Grasslands and open forests.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Black-Faced Ibis closeup
Image By Cláudio Timm
Black-Faced Ibis habitat
Image By dFaulder

11.2. Buff-Necked Ibis (White-Throated Ibis), Theristicus caudatus

Buff-Necked Ibis
Image By Fabio Maffei
Buff-Necked Ibis closeup
Image By Dario Sanches

Description: The buff-necked Ibis has a striking plumage in contrasting shades of gray, buff, black, and cinnamon-brown. It has a blackish bill, dark orbital skin, and red legs. It is similar to the black-faced ibis but it has large white wing patches and the black-faced Ibis does not.

Range: South America.

Habitat: Savanna, grasslands, and wetlands.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Buff-Necked Ibis habitat
Image By Claudio Timm
Buff-Necked Ibis juvenile
Image By Claudio Timm

11.3. Plumbeous Ibis, Theristicus caerulescens

Plumbeous Ibis
Image By Bernard Dupont

Description: The plumbeous ibis has mainly gray plumage with a white forehead and elongated plumes on the neck. It has orange eyes and red legs.

Range: South America.

Habitat: Lowland marshes, swamps, flooded pastures, lagoons, shallow lakes, ponds, and other wetland environments.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Plumbeous Ibis closeup
Image By Cláudio Timm

Plumbeous Ibis habitat
Image By Cláudio Timm
Plumbeous Ibis adult
Image By Dario Niz

12. Genus Threskiornis

Birds of this genus inhabit the warmer parts of southern Asia, Australasiam and sub-Saharan Africa.

12.1. Australian White Ibis, Threskiornis molucca

Australian White Ibis
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The Australian white ibis has mainly white plumage, with a black head, bill, tail, and legs. It is similar to the black-headed ibis but their ranges do not overlap.

Range: Australia.

Habitat: Wetlands and grasslands. In some parts of their range, they occur in urban areas where they are found in parks, gardens, and even garbage dumps.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Australian White Ibis closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Australian White Ibis habitat
Image By Dick Daniels

12.2. Black-Headed Ibis, Threskiornis melanocephalus

Black-Headed Ibis
Image By Vijay Ismavel

Description: The black-headed ibis has mainly white plumage, with a black head, bill, tail, and legs. It is similar to the Australian white Ibis, but their ranges do not overlap.

Range: Asia and Southeast Asia

Habitat: Salt and freshwater marshes, lakes, ponds, rice paddies, agricultural land, riversides, and urban areas where they frequent garbage dumps.

Conservation status: The black-headed ibis is classified as near-threatened, possibly due to habitat loss.

Black-Headed Ibis closeup
Image By Allan Hopkins
Black-Headed Ibis habitat
Image By Ravi Vaidyanathan
Black-Headed Ibis feathering
Image By J M Garg
Black-Headed Ibis in flight
Image By Vijay Ismavel

12.3. Sacred Ibis, Threskiornis aethiopicus

Sacred Ibis, Threskiornis aethiopicus
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The sacred Ibis has mainly white plumage, with a black head, bill, tail, and legs.

Range: They are native to Africa, but were also introduced to Europe.

Habitat: Fresh and saltwater wetlands, mudflats, wet pastures, agricultural fields, and garbage dumps.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Sacred Ibis closeup
Image By Cristiano Crolle
Sacred Ibis feathering
Image By Dick Daniels
Sacred Ibis habitat
Image By Charlie Westerinen
Sacred Ibis juvenile
Image By Dick Daniels

12.4. Straw-Necked Ibis, Threskiornis spinicollis

Straw-Necked Ibis
Image By JJ Harrison

Description: The straw-necked ibis is mostly black has with a white neck, belly, and under-tail.

Range: Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and Tasmania. Vagrants occur in New Zealand and surrounding Islands.

Habitat: Wetlands, grasslands, agricultural fields, swamps, and lagoons.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Straw-Necked Ibis closeup
Image By Laurie Boyle
Straw-Necked Ibis habitat
Image By Cyron Ray Macey
Straw-Necked Ibis adult
Image By Dick Daniels
Straw-Necked Ibis in flight
Image By Charlie Westerinen

Spoonbills

1. Genus Platalea

1.1. African Spoonbill, Platalea alba

African Spoonbill
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The African Spoonbill has mainly white plumage, a gray bill, a red face, and red legs. Juveniles lack the red face and have a yellow bill.

Range: Africa and Madagascar.

Habitat: Marshy wetlands.

Conservation status: Least concern.

African Spoonbill closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
African Spoonbill habitat
Image By Nik Borrow

1.2. Black-Faced Spoonbill, Platalea minor

Black-Faced Spoonbill
Image By Cp9asngf

Description: The black-faced spoonbill has mainly white plumage with a black face, bill, and legs. Breeding birds have a yellow breast patch and white crest.

Range: Eastern Asia.

Habitat: Marshes,mudflats, estuaries, and lakes.

Conservation status: The black-faced spoonbill is endangered due to habitat destruction and human disturbance.

The black-faced spoonbill is similar to the breeding Eurasian spoonbill but the latter has a yellow-tipped black bill and the black-faced spoonbill has a black face.

Black-Faced Spoonbill habitat
Image By Darren Bellerby
Black-Faced Spoonbill closeup
Image By Charles Lam

1.3. Eurasian Spoonbill (Common Spoonbill), Platalea leucorodia

Eurasian Spoonbill
Image By Andreas Trepte

Description: The breeding Eurasian spoonbill has mainly white plumage, a yellow breast patch, a black bill with a yellow tip, dark legs, and a crest. Nonbreeding birds lack the crest and breast-patch. The juvenile has a pale bill and black-tipped primary feathers.

Range: Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Habitat: Shallow, wetlands, marshes, mangroves, rivers, and lakes.

Conservation status: Least concern.

It is similar to the black-faced spoonbill but the latter has a black face and does not have a yellow-tipped bill.

Eurasian Spoonbill habitat
Image By Lacopo Lea
Eurasian Spoonbill closeup
Image By Creando
Eurasian Spoonbill distribution
Image By Bhardwaj Shanthanu
Eurasian Spoonbill in flight
Image By Christiano Crolle

1.4. Roseate Spoonbill, Platalea ajaja (Ajaia ajaja)

Roseate Spoonbill
Image By Sandy Cole

Description: The roseate spoonbill has pink plumage which varies in color depending on diet and age. It has a gray bill. It is the only spoonbill found in the Americas.

Range: The Americas.

Habitat: Shallow freshwater, brackish, and saltwater environments such as wetlands, swamps, and mangroves.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Roseate Spoonbill closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Roseate Spoonbill habitat
Image By Sandy Cole
Roseate Spoonbill feathering
Image By Dick Daniels
Roseate Spoonbill in flight
Image By Dominic Sherony
Roseate Spoonbill adult
Image By Dick Daniels

1.5. Royal Spoonbill (Black-Billed Spoonbill), Platalea regia

Royal Spoonbill
Image By Dick Daniels

Description: The royal spoonbill has mainly white plumage, with a black bill, face, and legs. Breeding birds have elongated plumes down the back of the head.

Range: Australia, New Zealand, and some Pacific Islands.

Habitat: Shallow fresh and saltwater wetlands, and intertidal flats.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Royal Spoonbill habitat
Image By Dick Daniels
Royal Spoonbill closeup
Image By Dick Daniels
Royal Spoonbill feathering
Image By Dick Daniels

1.6. Yellow-Billed Spoonbill, Platalea flavipes

Yellow-Billed Spoonbill
Image By Sandy Cole

Description: The yellow-billed spoonbill has white plumage, a pale yellowish bill, and yellowish legs and feet.

Range: Australia.

Habitat: Shallow wooded wetlands, marshes, reedbeds, and pasturelands.

Conservation status: Least concern.

Yellow-Billed Spoonbill closeup
Image By Peter Baum
Yellow-Billed Spoonbill feathering
Image By Patrick Kavanagh