Gourmet Buffet

While watching two adults and one juvenile white ibis foraging in a local herbaceous wetland (29 June 2014), I had a chance to observe the items on the brunch menu.

 

White ibis and cattle egret

White ibis and cattle egret

 

One of the adults encountered an underwater item that appeared to startle the bird such that it partially opened its wings, ruffled its feathers, and made a slight jump.  When the bird pulled its bill out of the shallow water (4 to 6 inches deep) it was grasping a full-sized crawfish (3 to 4 inches long).  The bird immediately ran toward the wetland edge and shallower water where it maneuvered the crayfish in its bill and swallowed it.

 

Ibis with crayfish

Ibis with crayfish

 

A short while later the juvenile snapped up a dragonfly close to the water surface.  I couldn’t tell if the bird caught a low-flying dragonfly or one perched on low vegetation.  Following what appeared to be a brief buzzing struggle, the ibis clamped it bill shut with dragonfly wings protruding out of both sides.  Shortly thereafter the dragonfly, wings and all, apparently went down the hatch.

 

Adult and juvenile white ibis

Adult and juvenile white ibis

 

I wasn’t surprised at the crayfish episode as I’ve seen that once or twice before and the natural history literature notes the prominence of crayfish in the ibis diet.

I was surprised, however, at the dragonfly incident.  The episode occurred around midday so the temperature was warm enough for dragonflies to be actively moving about (i.e., it should not have been chilled and sluggish).  Perhaps this one didn’t recognize the ibis as a hazard and either flew too close, or if perched, let the bird approach too closely.

Talon and claw, bill and beak – I guess it’s a hungry world out there.

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