Three photos from the archives, a Scarlet Ibis taken while visiting San Diego Sea World in August of 2010. I have been looking through my photos from last year's trip and when I looked at this one, the first thing that struck me, apart from its colorful feathers, is how blue its eyes are. Such a pretty bird.
The Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is a species of ibis that inhabits tropical South America and also Trinidad and Tobago. It is the national bird of Trinidad and is featured on the Trinidad and Tobago coat of arms, along with Tobago's national bird, the Rufous-vented Chachalaca. You can click here to see the coat of arms and also to see what a Rufous-vented Chachalaca actually looks like. The Scarlet Ibis is very closely related to the American White Ibis and is sometimes considered conspecific with it. (Conspecific means relating to the same species.)
While the species may have occurred as a natural vagrant in southern Florida in the late 19th century, all recent reports of the species in North America have been introduced or escaped birds. Eggs from Trinidad were placed in White Ibis nests in Hialeah Park (Florida) in 1962, and the resulting population hybridized with the native ibis, producing "pink ibises" that are still occasionally seen.
Just like Flamingoes, the Scarlet Ibis gets its pink, orange and reddish color from the rich source of pigments in the algae and small crustaceans that they eat. Their legs and feet are also pink in color. Along with their scarlet coloring, adult birds have dark blue tips on four of their outer primary feathers.
Adults are 22-24 inches long (56-61 centimetres) and weigh 23 ounces (650 grams). They nest in trees, laying two to four eggs. Their diet consists of frogs, reptiles and crustaceans. A juvenile Scarlet Ibis is grey and white. As it grows, the ingestion of red crustaceans in the tropical swamps gradually produces the characteristic scarlet plumage. The life span of the Scarlet Ibis is approximately 15 years in the wild and 20 years in captivity.