Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis is a majestic-looking Pelecaniformes found in south-eastern North America. These birds may look plain black from a distance but when observed carefully, they seem to have glistening black feathers that reflect a lot of colors.

About Glossy Ibises

These semi-nomadic long-legged, long-billed forager birds can be spotted in wetlands and wet agricultural land looking for crabs, small fishes, insects, and seeds. Glossy Ibises are cosmopolitan bird species; found in many continents like Europe, Asia, and Africa along with the American continent and are increasing rapidly probably because of the increased rice cultivation there.

Glossy Ibises also possess a capability to fly very long distances and disperse very widely as Glossy Ibises branded in Spain were even found in Barbados which explains their presence in such a varied range of continents and justifies their “nomadic” nature. Glossy Ibises are called the “Farmer’s Best friends” and are welcomed to Agricultural
lands as they tend to eat insects and mollusks that harm the crops and destroy them by feeding on them.

Aren’t these beautiful and majestic almost omnipresent birds with their extraordinary capabilities really interesting? Let’s try to know more about them.

● Glossy Ibis Photos, color pattern, song
● Glossy Ibis Size, eating behavior, habitat
● Glossy Ibis Range and migration, nesting


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Glossy Ibis Color Pattern

The color pattern of Glossy Ibises is very fascinating. The color of these birds looks like a very flat and plain shade of dark Black. But upon observing the bird from near it is evident that the black feathers of this bird aren’t actually as dull it seems initially. The feathers reflect a lot of colors like deep maroon, violet, emerald, and shiny bronze making it look majestic and also magical. The male bird in fact is a rich chestnut color and not black. The juveniles are a dull shade of the adults and have some streaks of white on their backs.

The sickle-like bill of this bird and the legs are black overall.

Description and Identification

Glossy Ibises are football-bodied, long-legged, and have a long sickle-like bill. They can be spotted foraging commonly in wetlands or wet agricultural lands in flocks. These birds fly with their necks outstretched and legs trailing behind. Their tails, wings and lower backs are glistening metallic shared of emerald, bronze, and purple; however, they look
black from a distance or in the absence of good lighting.

The juvenile birds are very similar to the adults in behavior and appearance however the color is a bit dull in comparison with the adults and they are all black below including the underbelly and under-wing area.

These birds are rarely confused with other Ibises like the White-faced Ibises and White Ibises, because of their unique color pattern. However, the breeding adult White-faced Ibises look very similar to the adult Glossy Ibises making it important to observe the details as the previous ones have pinkish skin around the bill and eyes whereas the latter

Glossy Ibis Song

Glossy Ibises are strictly not songbirds; they do not have a song. However, these birds can make a few calls even though they are mostly silent.

Glossy Ibises call very infrequently but sometimes while foraging in flocks they communicate through a silent murmuring call. Agitated or disturbed birds give a grunting call before flying away. Upon arriving at their nests, the adults give a raspy call whereas the chicks begging to be fed flap and make buzzing sounds like insects. The courting Glossy Ibises give out more subtle and soft calls like a Dove’s cooing.

Glossy Ibis Size

Glossy Ibises are medium-sized birds with compact bodies, very long necks, long slender legs, big wings, and tiny tails with curved bills that look somewhat like a sickle. These birds are relatively somewhere between a Crow and a Goose in size. Glossy Ibises are bigger than Cattle Egrets and smaller than Night Herons. The length of these birds can be somewhere around 18.9-26.0 inches (48-66 cm) and can weigh from 18.7 up to 27.1 oz (530-768 g) with 31–41 inches (80–105 cm) wingspan.

Glossy Ibis Behavior

Glossy Ibises are rarely aggressive and have a behavior that is mostly calm. These birds are highly gregarious; they are fond of company and are very social throughout their lives. They forage and rest in flocks and even live in tightly bound colonies. However, pairs do defend their nests and chase away other Ibises from the immediate vicinity. These birds fly in flocks like Cormorants and upon looking from a distance they can be confused with them.

The courting practices for Glossy Ibises include preening, bowing down to each other, and touching their bills. These birds then rattle their bills immediately and make soft cooing calls like Doves.

These birds avoid deep waters for foraging and prefer shallow wetlands. But sometimes, they do forage in belly-deep water and have even been observed to be swimming. Glossy Ibises also sunbathe to dry themselves and while doing so they hold their wings open.

What do Glossy Ibises Eat?

Glossy Ibises are capable of foraging with the help of both seeing and touching. These birds are omnivores and have a main diet of small aquatic animals and amphibians. They quite impressively eat a very big variety of animals such as leeches, earthworms, marine worms, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, mollusks, snails, fish, frogs, toads, newts, salamanders. They also eat a lot of insects including dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, soldier flies, beetle larvae, and many species of beetles. Snakes and lizards are also a part of the regular diet. Apart from these, Glossy Ibises also eat seeds, grains, and crops like rice and sorghum.

When foraging on the ground that is dry, these birds catch and glean insects, seeds, grains, etc. But when they are in the water or wetlands with mud they use their long bill to probe and sometimes swing it to feel the prey.

Glossy Ibises forage in the wetlands in flocks, progressing slowly through the area together. In the tidal areas, these birds forage more during the low tide as the shallow waters are more accessible and easier to forage in.

Glossy Ibises Habitat

Glossy Ibises are seen mostly in freshwater and brackish wetlands, marshes, swamps, and wet agricultural lands. They are also spotted in shallow ponds and estuaries sometimes. These birds prefer shallow waters to places with deeper levels of water as shallow waters favor easier foraging for aquatic animals and insects. Thus these birds are also spotted at the margins of lakes and rivers, lagoons, and sewage ponds. However, Glossy Ibises prefer roosting and nesting areas with large trees that are usually away from the foraging sites.

Range and Migration

Glossy Ibises are probably one of the most widespread bird species. They are found in various continents like Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and America. In North America, Glossy Ibises are found in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions. The range of these birds includes West Indies, the Caribbean region, and the Atlantic region, especially Florida. Glossy Ibises are residents of western India and annual arrivals for New Zealand.

During winters, Glossy Ibises withdraw from the northern breeding grounds and migrate towards the south in flocks whereas singles and small flocks may travel towards far north and inland during summer and springtime.

Glossy Ibis Lifecycle

The oldest Glossy Ibis living in the wild was recorded to be 21 years old whereas the calculated live span of these birds is approximately from 14 to 26 years. In captivity, they can live up to 26.8 years.

Both members of Glossy Ibis pairs build nests together. The female lays a clutch of around 3-4 eggs. These eggs are white in color and measure around 1.9-2.3 in (4.7-5.8 cm) lengthwise and 1.9-2.3 in (4.7-5.8 cm) across. They have only 1 brood per breeding season. The eggs are incubated by both the female and the male by taking turns for 20-22 days.

The hatchlings are fed by both parents by vomiting up their catch as the chicks are born naked and helpless. These noisy chicks stay in the nest while learning skills of survival for about a month and then leave. These hatchlings do not breed themselves until they are at least 2 years old.


Glossy Ibises tend to choose areas large enough for nesting as they build their nests on those trees. Together, both the male and the female build a large bulky nest near the wetland. The make collects material, mostly wetland vegetation like reeds and sticks depending on what’s available nearby. The nest is mostly on the ground in a reed bed but there have been observed cases where the nest has been 12 feet above the surface. The nest is platform-like and very bulky. It’s made of compacted reed, sticks, and twigs. The nests are usually a foot in diameter and the thickness can vary from some inches to a foot long.

Glossy Ibises defend their nests but also live in very close colonies where the nests are as close as two feet from each other. The advantage of living in such colonies is that there are always extra eyes to check for dangers and alarms.

Anatomy of a Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibises are medium-sized birds. They have a compact body with a very long neck, long and slim legs, and a long bill. So to carry the body weight during a flight, these birds obviously have very large wings. The slender long legs are useful while foraging in mud and water. The long bill helps in feeling and catching the prey from shallow and medium
waters as well. Even though these birds prefer shallow waters, they can also swim because of their compact body with a swim-bird kind of shape.

Final Thoughts

Glossy Ibises are majestic looking and beautiful which is why they are often correlated with magical and fantasy-based themes. Egyptians worship a certain anthropomorphic God that resembles these birds; the head is Glossy Ibis-like while the body is of a human named ‘Thoth’. Thoth is related to the moon, magic, and the skill of writing.

These birds also appear in Anglo-Saxon literature with a local name; the black Curlew. Glossy Ibises are a low concern species. But, they can be threatened by wetland habitat degradation and loss through drainage, increased salinity, groundwater extraction, and invasion by exotic plants. These birds are one of the species on which the Agreement on
the Conservation of African-Eurasian Waterbirds or AEWA applies.


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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Glossy Ibises

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Glossy Ibises are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

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Glossy Ibis Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Glossy Ibis. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Glossy Ibises

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses For Glossy Ibises

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