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.
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 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- S L Olson, H F James and C A Meister (1981). "Winter field notes and specimen weights of Cayman Island birds". Bulletin of The British Ornithologists' Club 101: 339–346. "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. "Range Expansion of the Glossy Ibis in North America". North American Birds 54 (3): 241–247.
- Taft, Dave (June 28, 2013). "Glossy Ibises Are Like 21st-Century Pterodactyls". The New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- Hudson N. & the Rarities Committee, Report on Rare Birds in Great Britain 2010, British Birds 104, pp. 557–629
- BirdLife International (2012). Plegadis falcinellus. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2.
- Glossy ibis videos, photos and facts – Plegadis falcinellus. ARKive. Retrieved on 2013-03-05.
- Hancock, Kushlan & Kahl (1992). Storks, Ibises, and Spoonbills of the World. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-322730-0.
- Yalden D.W. & Albarella U. (2009), The History of British Birds, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-958116-0
- Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palearctic
- Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 4th Edition
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Glossy ibis.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Plegadis falcinellus|
- BirdLife species factsheet for Plegadis falcinellus
- Glossy Ibis - The Atlas of Southern African Birds
- Glossy Ibis – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
- Glossy Ibis videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus - eNature.com
- Field guide photo page on Flickr
- Glossy ibis photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)