Two White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) in New York: Cow Meadow Park, Nassau County and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens County, 6 July 2002

Bird #1: On Thursday, 4 July 2002, Andy Guthrie discovered an adult (or subadult) White-faced Ibis at Cow Meadow Park, Freeport, Nassau County. The following Saturday, a group of birders including Andy, myself, Tom Burke and Gail Benson gathered at the freshwater pond to sift through the ibis in search of the bird. After waiting almost two and a half hours, the ibis made a brief appearance before being spooked and heading out over the salt marsh.

Andy's excellent photographs and discussion of the identification can be found on his web page:

I include four of my own below.

Bird #2: Flushed with success, we moved to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge which also hosts large numbers of ibis and other herons. Venturing onto the East Pond in mid-afternoon, we spotted a large group of ibis on the far bank at the south end. A quick scan through the birds revealed a second White-faced Ibis, picked out by the red iris and facial skin. Unfortunately the flock took flight a few minutes after our arrival and the birds scattered in several directions. Two rather distant photos are posted below.

It is unclear whether these birds are subadults or non-breeding adults undergoing pre-basic molt? Certainly we find a small number of Glossy Ibis that have adult body coloration but lack the white pigmented skin around the face. Are these non-breeders or subadults?

This is a review species in New York State and observers are kindly requested to send descriptions and photos to the New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC).

Bird #1: Cow Meadow Preserve, Nassau County

First recognized as it dropped from the air by the gleaming red eye set on a pink face. Notice the creamy-brown streaks on the head and upper neck, perhaps indicative of basic-plumage? The legs appeared pinker than any of the ten or so Glossy Ibis present at the same time.  The bird appeared noticeably smaller than the Glossy Ibis. This is mentioned by Kaufman (1990). The appreciable difference in size leads me to think that the Cow Meadow bird is a female, which are generally smaller than males. Oddly, David Sibley's guide cites identical measurements for the two species (L 23", WS 36") but in the text describes White-faced Ibis as "averages slightly larger" than Glossy Ibis! He quotes a heavier average mass for White-faced Ibis (610 g vs 550 g). Not sure who is correct on this, but Kenn Kaufman's assertion fits with our experience.

BIRD #2: East Pond Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

The bird was rather distant 60-80 yards and I only managed a handful of shots before the whole group took flight and disappeared. Two of the sharpest images are reproduced below. The bird was clearly identifiable by the red eye and pink facial skin. Through the scope we could see a remnant of the white feather border to the face, and this seemed bolder (more obvious) than on the Cow Meadow bird. The legs were pinkish, strongest around the intertarsal joint 'knees'.

More ibis photographs
I have posted some recent photos to help those interested in the identification and aging of Glossy Ibis. There are separate pages for adults, juveniles and oddities (Added 10 July 2002).

Kaufman, K. (1990) 'The dark Ibises' in A Field Guide to Advanced Birding. Chapter 5, p39-42, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Sibley, D. A. (2000) 'The Sibley Guide to Birds', Knopf, Inc.

Photography: All shots were taken through a Kowa TSN-4 scope (at 20X) using a Nikon Coolpix 880 digital camera. Images were cropped and sharpened slightly using Adobe Photoshop 5.0.

All images and text copyright of Angus Wilson/Ocean Wanderers© 2002.
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