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The scarlet ibis is hard to miss! Adults are bright red with a dark beak and some black-tipped feathers. The long legs of this wading bird are pink, and their toes are partially webbed. They use their long, curved bill to probe mudflats, shallow water and grasses in search of food. These highly social birds form large breeding colonies—often in mangrove swamps—and fly in a V-formation to their feeding grounds.
A Note From the Caretaker
We throw a variety of insects (crickets, mealworms and waxworms) into the forest two times a day to encourage natural foraging behavior. Our ibis especially like crickets, but are very shy and seldom come down from the trees to forage while the keepers are nearby, but visitors often see them wading in the stream.
Learn more about the scarlet ibis! Did you know that the ibis gets its bright pink color from pigments in its food?
The ibis's range extends from northern South America southward along the coast of Brazil in aquatic habitats like mangrove swamps, tidal mudflats, wetlands and shallow lakes. Scarlet ibis are occasional visitors to Florida.
Ibis eat a varied diet, including crabs and other crustaceans, small fish, mollusks, frogs, worms and insects. At the Aquarium, the ibis's diet includes fish, crustaceans and insects, as well as a commercial pellet diet.
Adult scarlet ibis reach 22 to 30 inches in length from the tip of the bill to the end of the tail. The male is larger than the female and also has a longer, thicker bill.
The scarlet ibis is listed in Appendix II (threatened in some parts of its range) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It is highly protected in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, where it is the national bird.
Predators of the ibis include raccoons, snakes and large cats. Some humans kill these birds for their feathers.
Meet the Expert Ken Howell
As the curator of the Upland Tropical Rain Forest, Amazon River Forest and Australia: Wild Extremes exhibits, Ken starts his day early, walking through each exhibit.