Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber)


The Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is the national bird of Tobago and Trinidad. This absolutely stunning, brightly colored bird is a remarkable sight to see. Although they only occur naturally in South America, they can be seen in zoos the world over.

Scarlet Ibises vary in length from 56 to 61 cm or 22 to 24 inches, with a mass of about 650g. Both male and female Scarlet Ibises are a bright red color and have black tips on their wings. Immature birds are brown with a white belly and rump. As time progresses they will begin producing scarlet feathers. The feather color of the Scarlet Ibis comes from the synthesis of carotene found in their diet. It has been said that the black pigmentation on the wing’s primary feathers gives it strength. They have very long legs, typical of waders. These help them walk across mud flats, marsh lands and mangrove stands. The long neck also assists them in reaching certain areas. Notable is the Scarlet Ibis’ long curved bill. The bill is highly sensitive and can search out small creatures such as crustaceans, insects, fish and frogs in the mud. Should the ibis or its young be attacked it will fight using its wings, legs and beak.

These spectacularly colored birds live in extensive colonies. Males woo female Scarlet Ibises with complex courtship dances. They will typically pair off for life. Both in the pair will construct a nest in mangrove trees with sticks. After mating the female Scarlet Ibis will lay 2 or three eggs. These are a pale green color with brown streaks. Incubation lasts 23 days and the offspring fledge in 39 to 45 days. By the age of 2 years the young ibises have transformed into their scarlet coloration.

Although the Scarlet Ibis is not a threatened species it is still on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) concern list. These remarkable birds are facing over-hunting, habitat destruction and egg collecting. Scarlet Ibises play an important role in the environment and it is therefore vital that we protect this bird species along with others.