Green ibis

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For the bird known as African green ibis (Bostrychia olivacea), see Olive ibis.
Green ibis
Green ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis).JPG
in the Pantanal, Brazil
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Threskiornithidae
Genus: Mesembrinibis
J.L. Peters, 1930
Species: M. cayennensis
Binomial name
Mesembrinibis cayennensis
(Gmelin, 1789)

The green ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis), also known as the Cayenne ibis,[2] is a wading bird in the ibis family Threskiornithidae. It is the only member of the genus Mesembrinibis.

This is a resident breeder from Honduras through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama, and South America to northern Argentina. It undertakes some local seasonal movements in the dry season.


When he first described the green ibis in 1789, from a specimen collected in Cayenne, French Guiana, Johann Friedrich Gmelin gave it the scientific name Tantalus cayennensis, assigning it to the same genus as a number of Old World ibis species.[2] In 1930, James Lee Peters moved it to the monotypic genus Mesembrinibis;[3] it has no subspecies.[4] DNA–DNA hybridization studies show that the species falls squarely into the New World ibis clade, with its closest relatives being the sharp-tailed ibis, the American white ibis and the buff-necked ibis.[5]

The genus name Mesembrinibis is a combination of the Greek word mesēmbrinos, meaning "southern" (from mesēmbria, meaning "south") and ibis.[6] The specific epithet cayennensis means "of Cayenne or French Guiana", and refers to the collection site for the type specimen.[7]


The green ibis is a medium-sized ibis, with short legs and a long, slender, decurved bill.[8][9] It measures 45–60 cm (18–24 in) in length and ranges from 700 to 890 g (1.5 to 2.0 lb) in mass.[10] The sexes, which are identical in plumage, overlap somewhat in measurements, though the largest birds are male.[10] Breeding adults have glossy greenish-black bodies, pale green legs and bill, and grey bare facial skin patches. Juveniles are much duller, but can be distinguished from the similar glossy ibis by their bulkier shape, shorter legs and broader wings. This species, like other ibises, flies with neck outstretched. Its flight is heavy, with fewer glides and jerkier wingbeats than its relatives.

Similar species[edit]

If seen in good light, the green ibis is distinctively dark, and unlikely to be confused with any other ibis. In poor light, however, it might be confused with the glossy ibis; the latter (which is bronzy-maroon in color) has longer legs and a slimmer build.[8]

Range and habitat[edit]

The green ibis is found from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina and Paraguay.[8] However, fossil records show the species once occurred as far north as Kansas in the United States.[11] It is found in a variety of forested wetland habitats, particularly swamps and along the edges of rivers and lakes.[12]


The green ibis is largely crepuscular.[13] Less gregarious than its relatives, it is usually seen alone or in pairs.[12] When it does forage in mixed-species flocks, it tends to remain on the fringes, usually among other green ibises.[14] It regularly perches in trees.[12]


Like other ibises, it eats fish, frogs and other water creatures, as well as insects.


Its nest consists of a platform of twigs placed in a tree. It has been recorded as harassing sunbitterns nesting in the same tree.[15]


It has a hollow, hooting, accelerating call,[12] most often heard at dawn and dusk.[16] Transcribed as kro kro or koro koro, the call is described as "mellow".[16]

Conservation status and threats[edit]

Because of its huge range and large population, the green ibis is rated as a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; however, its numbers do appear to be decreasing.[1] It is at least occasionally hunted (and eaten) by residents of Central and South American countries.[17]

The green ibis is the type host of a species of bird louse, Plegadiphalus cayennensis.[18]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Mesembrinibis cayennensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Matheu & del Hoyo, 1992, p. 500.
  3. ^ "ITIS Report: Mesembrinibis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "ITIS Report: Mesembrinibis cayennensis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  5. ^ Sheldon, Frederick H.; Slikas, Beth (1997). "Advances in Ciconiiform Systematics 1976-1996". Colonial Waterbirds 20 (1): 106–114. doi:10.2307/1521772. JSTOR 1521772. 
  6. ^ Jobling (2010), p. 251.
  7. ^ Jobling (2010), p. 95.
  8. ^ a b c Hilty, Steven L. (2003). Birds of Venezuela. Princeton, NJ, US: Princeton University Press. p. 217. ISBN 0-691-02131-7. 
  9. ^ Henderson, Carrol (2010) [2002]. Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide. Austin, TX, US: University of Texas Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-292-71965-1. 
  10. ^ a b Hancock, James; Kushlan, James A.; Kahl, M. Philip (1992). Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the World. London, UK: Academic Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-1-4081-3500-6. 
  11. ^ Collins, Charles T. (March 1964). "Fossil Ibises from the Rexroad Fauna of the Upper Pliocene of Kansas" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin 76 (1): 43–49. 
  12. ^ a b c d Schulenberg, Thomas S.; Stotz, Douglas F.; Lane, Daniel F.; O'Neill, John P.; Parker III, Theodore A. (2007). Birds of Peru. Princeton, NJ, US: Princeton University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-691-13023-1. 
  13. ^ Heckman, Charles W. (1998). The Pantanal of Poconé. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-7923-4863-4. 
  14. ^ Frederick, Peter C.; Bildstein, Keith L. (March 1992). "Foraging Ecology of Seven Species of Neotropical Ibises (Threskiornithidae) during the Dry Season in the Llanos of Venezuela" (PDF). The Wilson Bulletin 104 (1): 1–21. JSTOR 4163112. 
  15. ^ Thomas, Betsy Trent; Strahl, Stuart D. (August 1990). "Nesting behavior of Sunbitterns in Venezuela" (PDF). The Condor 92 (3): 576–581. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  16. ^ a b Ridgely, Robert S.; Gwynne, John A. (1989). A Guide to the Birds of Panama: With Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Princeton, NJ, US: Princeton University Press. pp. 75–76. ISBN 0-691-08529-3. 
  17. ^ Silvius, Kirsten M.; Bodmer, Richard E.; Fragoso, Jos M. V., eds. (2004). People in Nature: Wildlife Conservation in South and Central America. New York, NY, US: Columbia University Press. p. 350. ISBN 978-0-231-12782-0. 
  18. ^ Emerson, K. C.; Price, Roger D. (September 1969). "A New Species of Plegadiphilus (Mallophaga: Menoponidae) from the Cayenne Ibis". The Florida Entomologist 52 (3): 161–163. JSTOR 3493851. 

Cited works[edit]

  • Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Names. London, UK: Christopher Helm. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  • Matheu, E.; del Hoyo, J. (1992). "Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi. Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-10-5. 

External links[edit]