What Do Ibis Eat?

Based on accounts reported by Bent (1926:23-57), the foods of glossy ibis, white ibis, and white-faced ibis apparently can be grouped into two broad categories.  Grasshoppers, cutworms, and possibly earthworms comprise one group and are probably secured in grassland or prairie habitats.  The other group includes crayfish, tadpoles, small fish, and small snakes which are probably secured in marsh and swamp habitats.

According to one set of extended observations reported by Bent (1926:48-49), young to half-grown moccasins (water moccasins?) made up about one-half of the food supplied to nestling glossy ibis after about the age of three weeks.

Based on these observations, and on some extrapolated calculations made by the observers, it appears that the various ibis species may be significant predators on “moccasins”, especially during the breeding season.  If so, I have gained a new-found personal respect for these birds.

As with deer flies, mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, blackberry and smilax thorns, etc., poisonous snakes are not high on my “hope to see” list.

Bent, A.C. 1926 [1963].  Life Histories of North American Marsh Birds [Dover Reprint].  Dover Publications, New York.  392 pp., plus plates.

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