Thursday, May 2, 2013

New (and overdue) in northern Ontario, White-faced Ibis (updated May 3)

In the last week came the exciting report of a White-faced Ibis that's stopped over on a lawn along side the Trans-Canada Highway in Oxdrift, in the Kenora District.  Ursala Wall noticed the ibis on April 23 as it foraged on Alane Sken's lawn. Carolle Eady from nearby Eagle River was able to get some excellent photos confirming the first occurrence of the species in northern Ontario.
Photo courtesy of Carolle Eady
The record is exceptional and yet not so surprising. Let me explain.

It is exceptional in that only a dozen or so WFIB have been documented for the province and never before for northern Ontario. The bird's behaviour and site-fidelity have resulted in excellent documentation photos that leave no doubt as to the species. Note the complete white border to the face, the red eye and reddish legs - clinchers for WFIB (vs. the closely related Glossy Ibis).
Photo courtesy of Carolle Eady
Alas, not all dark Plegadis ibis are as mature, cooperative and distinctively marked. Following review, many Ontario sightings are officially recorded, ambiguously, as Plegadis sp. or Glossy/White-faced Ibis. Autumn juveniles can be especially difficult to identify.

As of November 2012 the Ontario Bird Record Committee had reviewed 129 Plegadis ibis reports of which only 70 supported specific ID, i.e.,
  • 11 White-faced
  • 59 Glossy
  • 59 Glossy/White-faced aka Plegadis sp.
The only other ibis reported from northern Ontario, one from Gowganda, Timiskaming District, in October of 2001, was reviewed and assigned to Plegadis sp.

The range of the White-faced Ibis has been steadily expanding northwards over the last century. Breeding has been documented in nearby Manitoba, Minnesota and North Dakota. A quick glance at an eBird plot of occurrences from the region - red points indicate recent sightings - suggests to me the addition of WFIB to the list of northern Ontario birds was due, if not overdue.

Update: May 3. 

On May 2, Evan Timusk turned up a Plegadis ibis at Pither's Point Park in Ft. Frances. The encounter lasted only a minute or so but Evan was able to observe a thin white border to the face and a dark, but not red eye. Thus, the bird might have been northern Ontario's first Glossy Ibis although Evan notes that a second year White-faced is a possibility. In either case, this is the first occurrence of a Plegadis ibis in the Fort Frances District. Well done Evan!

In recent days Andy Nyhus from Winona, MN has been enjoying a great showing of ibis in our neighbouring state. The most remarkable find was an apparent Glossy Ibis in Olmstead Co. (a county first) on April 30th.
Glossy Ibis. April 30, 2013. Olmstead Co., MN. Courtesy of Andy Nyhus.
On April 27th Andy also photographed White-faced and Glossy together in Houston Co. just south of La Crescent. Whereas White-faced Ibis is now a well established breeder in MN and elsewhere in the upper Mississippi watershed, Glossy Ibis is considered accidental in MN.
GLIB and WFIB. April 27, 2013. Houston Co., MN. Courtesy of Andy Nyhus

Acknowledgment: Many thanks to Carolle Eady, Evan Timusk and Andrew Nyhus (here's Andy's photography website) for sharing news and/or photographs of their recent ibis encounters.

Related: Shaffer, J.A., Knutsen, G.A., Martin, R.E. and J.S. Brice. 2007. Pattern and potential causes of White-faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi, establishment in the northern prairie and parkland region of North America. Canadian Field-Naturalist 121(1): 46-57. (pdf)

1 comment:

  1. Very cool. Nice to see you posting again after a few months.