Scarlet Ibis Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is an ibis species that belongs to the family Threskiornithidae. The red bird is thought to occur in the tropical habitats of South America and Caribbean islands. The ibis takes to the skies and flies at greater heights. Both males and females have the same plumages.

Scarlet Ibis Facts


  • Adult ibis are recognized by the scarlet or white plumage. The bird’s feathers are all reddish except for the wingtips that are completely black.
  • Generally the adult scarlet ibis has red feet and red bill. Young ibis however show grey bill and feet.
  • They seem to rely more on red crustaceans which becomes obvious in their plumages as the ibis grow older.
  • The length of the scarlet ibis reaches 55–63 centimeters (22–25 in).
  • Males and females have the same plumages but males have longer bills and are also slightly heavier.
  • Scarlet ibis has a wingspan measuring up to 54 centimeters (21 in).
  • Sometimes they have got the blackish bill. It becomes darker in the breeding season.
  • The partially webbed feet help the bird to waddle and perch on water.
scarlet ibis facts
Scarlet Ibis ©papamouchi

Range & Habitat

  • Scarlet ibis is likely to make homes in a wide variety of habitats such as open marine lagoons, golf courses, wetlands, marshy habitats, garbage dumps, residential yards, and agricultural fields. They will also occupy habitats with treeless plains.
  • The ibis range extends North America including as far as Virginia and Florida. The bird also breeds along the coasts of Louisiana, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Belize.
  • They also breed along the coasts of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • The ibis is found throughout the South America along the Atlantic coast of Brazil, Guyana, Argentina, Suriname, and Colombia. The southern population is reddish in color as compared those living in the north. Some of its population also lives on the plains of Venezuela.


  • Scarlet ibis are territorial species. They are also very social.
  • Adult males fight over food as well as breeding habitats. The victorious bird will claim the territory.
  • They are often seen flying in V-formation at greater heights.
  • The speed at which the scarlet ibis flies is about 25 miles per hour.
  • Ibis also produce a variety of calls such as squeaking and honking particularly during courtship.
  • Scarlet ibis become highly aggressive during the breeding season.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Scarlet ibis feed in large flocks which are gathered in saltwater as well as freshwater locales. They use their long bills to pick out their favorite food from water.
  • The ibis typically eats worms, crustaceans, fiddler crabs, scarabs, ground beetles, bugs, crayfish, small fish, snails, and other aquatic insects. They will swallow the small prey in one go but larger prey is first broken into pieces then consumed.
scarlet ibis facts
Scarlet Ibis ©

Reproductive Biology

  • The breeding season occurs between March and September.
  • The ibis pair forms breeding colonies on mangrove swamps and gallery forests. Males first choose the roosting sites either by shaking their heads or snapping bills.
  • Female ibis will select the nesting site while males bring her nesting materials.
  • Sometimes they build nests on the ground or into the trees.
  • The female lays 2 – 5 bluish green eggs which are guarded by both parents.
  • Both parents attain maturity at 3 years age.
  • The breeding interval is one year.
  • The gestation period lasts only 5 – 6 days.
  • The hatching period lasts 3 weeks. Chicks are born with short legs which they develop in 14 days.
  • The hatchlings will leave the nest when they become 50 days old.
  • The scarlet ibis is most likely to live 7.5 years in captivity but the lifespan of wild ibis is not known.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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