The perfect tool for crustacean extraction

Winter solstice today at 10:59 a.m. EST, shortest day of the year as we curve around from fall to winter and days begin slowly to lengthen again.

I like this photo for getting a good look at the orangey-pink bill of a White Ibis. This one is an adult. The juveniles are mostly brown, with white underbellies. As they mature, they get mottled with more white feathers until they are snowy white all over.

This bird was walking near the edge of the pond at Indian Riverside Park the other day, keeping an eye on me in case I was one of the humans that brings bread or popcorn to feed the birds.

The proper food for getting your ibises to glow with good health is mostly a variety of insects and crustaceans found in mud in shallow water. The ibis’s long, curved, sensitive bill is made to find and grasp its food.

White Ibises probe for insects and crustaceans beneath the surface of wetlands. They insert their bill into soft muddy bottoms and feel for prey. When they feel something, they pinch it like a tweezer, pulling out crayfish, earthworms, marine worms, and crabs. They also stab or pinch fish, frogs, lizards, snails, and newts. Many of their prey are swallowed on the spot, but for really muddy items they carry them away to wash the mud off before eating. They break harder crustaceans with their bills and remove claws from crabs and crayfish before eating them.

Best way to “feed” these birds? Preserve shallow wetlands and other natural habitats. (They will also probe for insects like beetle larvae on suburban lawns!)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: To Feed or Not to Feed Wild Birds

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