Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: in North America locally from Maine and Rhode Island (recorded also in Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick; McAlpine et al. 1988) south to Florida, and west on the Gulf Coast to Louisiana, also inland, at least causally, in Arkansas (Blytheville). Major concentration of breeding in the U.S. is in southern New Jersey, Delaware Bay, and the lower coasts of the Delmarva Peninsula (Spendelow and Patton 1988); apparently the breeding range has been shifting northward on the Atlantic coast during the past few decades (Byrd and Johnston 1991). Breeds also in northwestern Costa Rica; Greater Antilles (Hispaniola, Cuba, and Puerto Rico); northern Venezuela; and widely in the Old World. NORTHERN WINTER: north to southern Louisiana, northern Florida; also regularly in eastern North Carolina and Virginia), sometimes in New Jersey; south through the breeding range and in the Old World. In the U.S., the highest winter densities occur in peninsular Florida (Root 1988). Wanders outside usual range.
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Transient
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Length: 58 cm
Weight: 506 grams
Breeding adult differs from breeding adult white-faced ibis by olive-brown (vs. reddish) bill, brown (vs. red) eyes, gray-green legs with red joints (vs. all-red legs), and lack of a white feathered area adjacent to facial skin; also, in glossy ibis, pale edge of gray facial skin does not extend behind eye or under chin (white-faced ibis adult has white behind eye and under chin). Winter adult differs from winter adult white-faced ibis in usually having a pale line between the eye and bill (line absent in white-faced). In first fall plaumage, indistinguishable from immature white-faced ibis (NGS 1983).
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Marshes, swamps, lagoons, pond margins, lakes, flooded pastures; fresh, brackish, and salt water. Reported as mainly in freshwater habitats on the Atlantic coast of Florida, more common in saltwater habitats in Louisiana (Spendelow and Patton 1988). Nests usually with herons or other water birds, on the ground in a marsh or in small trees or bushes near water (e.g., in BACCHARIS, IVA, and MYRICA along the U.S. Atlantic coast). See Spendelow and Patton (1988) for further details on nesting habitat in different regions.
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Eats crayfishes, insects, water snakes, and other small aquatic animals (Palmer 1962). Probes/gleans in soft mud and shallow water. Young are fed by regurgitation.
Nonbreeding: solitary or in small groups when feeding (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Clutch size usually is 3-4 (3 in south). Incubation, by both sexes (male during part of daylight period), lasts about 21 days. Young are tended by both parents, fly well and get own food at 4-6 weeks. Nests in small colonies; most colonies include less than 100 breeders (but up to about 1800) (Spendelow and Patton 1988).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Plegadis falcinellus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Plegadis falcinellus
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
Rounded National Status Rank: N4B,N4N : N4B: Apparently Secure - Breeding, N4N: Apparently Secure - Nonbreeding
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Still common in portions of large range. Population trend is unknown for many regions.
Status in Egypt
Regular passage visitor.
Comments: Threats include development and disturbance of nesting habitat; storms and other natural processes sometimes have adverse effects (Byrd and Johnston 1991).
This is the most widespread ibis species, breeding in scattered sites in warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Atlantic and Caribbean regions of the Americas. It is thought to have originated in the Old World and spread naturally from Africa to northern South America in the 19th century, from where it spread to North America. This species is migratory; most European birds winter in Africa, and in North America birds from north of the Carolinas winter farther south. Birds from other populations may disperse widely outside the breeding season. While generally declining in Europe, it has recently established a breeding colony in southern Spain, and there appears to be a growing trend for the Spanish birds to winter in Britain and Ireland, with at least 22 sightings in 2010. In 2014, a pair attempted to breed in Lincolnshire, the first such attempt in Britain 
Glossy ibises undertake dispersal movements after breeding and are very nomadic. The more northerly populations are fully migratory and travel on a broad front, for example across the Sahara Desert. Populations in temperate regions breed during the local spring, while tropical populations nest to coincide with the rainy season. Nesting is often in mixed-species colonies. When not nesting, flocks of over 100 individuals may occur on migration, and during the winter or dry seasons the species is usually found foraging in small flocks. Glossy ibises often roost communally at night in large flocks, with other species, occasionally in trees which can be some distance from wetland feeding areas.
Glossy ibises feed in very shallow water and nest in freshwater or brackish wetlands with tall dense stands of emergent vegetation such as reeds, papyrus or rushes) and low trees or bushes. They show a preference for marshes at the margins of lakes and rivers but can also be found at lagoons, flood-plains, wet meadows, swamps, reservoirs, sewage ponds, paddies and irrigated farmland. It is less commonly found in coastal locations such as estuaries, deltas, salt marshes and coastal lagoons. Preferred roosting sites are normally in large trees which may be distant from the feeding areas.
The nests are usually a platform of twigs and vegetation positioned at least 1 m (3.3 ft) above water, sometimes up to 7 m (23 ft) in tall, dense stands of emergent vegetation, low trees or bushes.
The diet of the glossy ibis is variable according to the season and is very dependent on what is available. Prey includes adult and larval insects such as aquatic beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and caddisflies, Annelida including leeches, molluscs (e.g. snails and mussels), crustaceans (e.g. crabs and crayfish) and occasionally fish, amphibians, lizards, small snakes and nestling birds.
This species is a mid-sized ibis. It is 48–66 cm (19–26 in) long, averaging around 59.4 cm (23.4 in) with an 80–105 cm (31–41 in) wingspan. The culmen measures 9.7 to 14.4 cm (3.8 to 5.7 in) in length, each wing measures 24.8–30.6 cm (9.8–12.0 in), the tail is 9–11.2 cm (3.5–4.4 in) and the tarsus measures 6.8–11.3 cm (2.7–4.4 in). The body mass of this ibis can range from 485 to 970 g (1.069 to 2.138 lb). Breeding adults have reddish-brown bodies and shiny bottle-green wings. Non-breeders and juveniles have duller bodies. This species has a brownish bill, dark facial skin bordered above and below in blue-gray (non-breeding) to cobalt blue (breeding), and red-brown legs. Unlike herons, ibises fly with necks outstretched, their flight being graceful and often in V formation.
Sounds made by this rather quiet ibis include a variety of croaks and grunts, including a hoarse grrrr made when breeding.
The glossy ibis is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. Glossy ibises are threatened by wetland habitat degradation and loss through drainage, increased salinity, groundwater extraction and invasion by exotic plants.
The common name black curlew may be a reference to the glossy ibis and this name appears in Anglo-Saxon literature, indicating that it may have bred in early medieval England but Yalden and Albarella do not mention this species.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Plegadis falcinellus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 29 November 2014.
- Olson, S.L.; James, H.F.; Meister, C.A. (1981). "Winter field notes and specimen weights of Cayman Island birds". Bulletin of The British Ornithologists' Club 101: 339–346. ISSN 0007-1595.
Wetmore observed an adult and an immature with herons in the West Bay district, 3 February 1972. Johnston et al. (1971) list but one sighting on GC (Grand Cayman) and 2 on CB (Cayman Brac).
- Patten, Michael A.; Lasley, Greg W. "Range Expansion of the Glossy Ibis in North America". North American Birds 54 (3): 241–247.
- Taft, Dave (28 June 2013). "Glossy Ibises Are Like 21st-Century Pterodactyls". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
- Hudson N. & the Rarities Committee (2010). "Report on Rare Birds in Great Britain". British Birds 104: 557–629.
- "Glossy ibis in nest attempt at Frampton Marshes". BBC News. 18 August 2014.
- "Glossy ibis videos, photos and facts – Plegadis falcinellus". ARKive. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
- Hancock, James A.; Kushan, James A.; Kahl, M. Philip (1992). Storks, Ibises, and Spoonbills of the World. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-322730-0.
- Yalden; Albarella, U. (2009). The History of British Birds. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-958116-0.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Sometimes considered conspecific with P. CHIHI, but sympatric breeding occurs in Louisiana (AOU 1983, 1998).