White-faced ibis took detour to Maine

Posted May 03, 2011, at 10:20 p.m.

A white-faced ibis flew from Mexico to Scarborough in late April. Rather than its preferred path to the Northwest — for nesting in Montana, Wyoming, the northern part of Nevada and Utah, and part of California — this bird flew from Mexico to the Northeast, and landed in Maine.

Ibises are large birds with long legs, neck and a long, down-curving bill. There are many species of ibis around the world, but we usually see only one species, the glossy ibis, in Maine. These birds weigh about the same as a ruffed grouse, 1.3 pounds, and when standing are about 1½ feet tall. The glossy ibis is here only in southern Maine and only during the warm spring and summer months. It is likely that this white-faced ibis flew in with a flock of glossy ibises.

Both ibises have green glossy wings and reddish-brown feathers on the breast, neck and head. From a distance they appear very dark overall. The white-faced ibis has a border of white feathers with some bare skin around its face, distinguishing it from the glossy.

White-faced ibises live in marshes, salt or fresh, and eat large insects, newts, leeches, earthworms, snails, crayfishes, frogs, small fish and crabs.

Kathy Burns came with me hoping to see the white-faced ibis. Rob Speirs first found this rare bird, and Stella Walsh helped me and Kathy locate it. I would not have been able to find the bird without their help.

That day, with Kathy and Stella, we found some other birds that are not usually seen here in the Bangor area. We saw a little blue heron, snowy egret, cattle egret, great white egret, greater scaup (a species of duck) and two male harlequin ducks. The little blue heron was a new bird for Kathy, and the white-faced ibis was too. But for me, the white-faced ibis was the best bird that day.

Come to the Penobscot Valley Chapter program about sea lampreys returning to the Sedgeunkedunk Steam. Robert Hogg will discuss how dam removal has affected natural habits and distribution of sea lampreys, and how a resurgent sea lamprey fishery may assist in the restoration of sustainable habitat for the endangered Atlantic salmon.

The program is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at Bangor Public Library. It is free and open to all.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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