When the World Goes to the Birds

Lafitte’s Cove ~ Galveston Island

With tourists being encouraged to leave the Island, weekenders staying in town, and full-time residents of Galveston’s west end more-or-less sequestered in their homes, much of the Island’s bird population continues to wander at will. 

Here, a pair of white ibis (Eudocimus albus) forage in a traffic median at the entrance to the Lafitte’s Cove subdivision. My hunch is that the new mulch around the plantings is filled with good things to eat, and this pair decided to visit the buffet. Notice that while the bird on the left is wide-eyed, the one on the right has closed it’s ‘third eyelid,’ a nictitating membrane (from Latin nictare, to blink), that helps to protect the eyes of birds, as well as various reptiles, mammals, and fishes. Wise bird, with all those thorns around.


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The Yard Bird

White ibis (Eudocimus albus)

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, white ibises tend to feed in large groups, seeking out shallow wetlands or flooded fields in which to forage. Given the right water depth, or soil that’s sufficiently wet, they’re perfectly content to dine even at urban parks or on lawns, probing the ground for the  grubs, grasshoppers, and crawfish that make up a large part of their diet.

Still, I hardly expected to find one in my parking lot. When I rounded a corner and discovered this fine fellow enjoying an afternoon snack, I happened to have my camera in the car with me, so I stopped, backed up, rolled down the window, and casually took a few photos.

Only later did I discover that the background, a combination of black metal fencing and green grass, made my visitor look like a prisoner. He wasn’t guilty of a crime, and as far as I know never was apprehended or charged, but he still ended up looking like a yardbird.


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Taking The Slow Road

Immature white ibis (Eudocimus albus) taking in the sights at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

During the past week, as I puttered and poked along the back roads of Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, I found myself pondering the travel habits of the ibis.

Though graceful in flight, ibis seem equally willing to indulge in the pleasures of ground travel. As they wander along roads and through fields — sometimes foraging, sometimes not — it’s easy to imagine them out for a stroll, or indulging in some avian version of follow-the-leader.

  Mature white ibis seem to prefer nursing home lawns and yacht clubs

Their steady but unhurried gait, their willingness to pause when something piques their interest, and their apparent curiosity about the world around them could make them models for travelers of every sort.

White-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi) stop at a local ditch for a little refreshment

When circumstances demand a little Point-A-to-Point-B flying, ibis can take to the skies in a flash. But if it’s a lazy afternoon, with nothing on the agenda and no demands to be met, they seem happy to take the slow road. I’m glad for the reminder that we can do the same.

Comments always are welcome.