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Plegadis chihi (Vieillot, 1817)
White-faced Ibis; White-Faced Ibis
Family: Threskiornithidae


© Scott Streit     (Photo ID #11858)



Status and Occurrence of White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) in British Columbia

by Rick Toochin and Don Cecile

Introduction and Distribution

The White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) is a species found breeding in western North America from eastern Oregon in the Harney Basin, in the central and northern California at the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, across southern Idaho, Montana, across eastern North and South Dakota, northwestern Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana (Ryder and Manry 1994). The White-faced Ibis also breeds in Mexico in the states of Durango and Jalisco, and as far south as Tampico Lagoons (100 pairs) and Tabasco Lagoons (500 birds), but the Mexican breeding distribution is poorly known (Ryder and Manry 1994). The White-faced Ibis also is found in South America, mainly in southwestern Peru, central Bolivia, Paraguay, and extreme southern Brazil (Short 1975, Sick 1993) south to central Chile and central Argentina (Blake 1977, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). In previously published literature, Hancock et al. (1992) consider that previously accepted nesting records in Venezuela and Colombia (AOU 1983) actually refer to the very similar looking Glossy Ibis (Gochfeld 1973). Recent analysis of banding recoveries seems to support this conclusion (Ryder and Manry 1994). The White-faced Ibis winter primarily in coastal Louisiana and Texas, south to the Mexican states of Guerrero, Puebla, and Tabasco, and occasionally to Guatemala (Land 1970) and Costa Rica (Stiles and Skutch 1989). There are also wintering White-faced Ibis that can be found at Los Banos and the Salton Sea, in California (Ryder and Manry 1994). This species is also found locally wintering in southern California, and in the lower Colorado River Valley of Arizona (Rosenberg et al. 1991).

The White-faced Ibis wanders throughout much of eastern North America with records from many different states and Provinces. In the west, the White-faced Ibis is an irruptive species in Washington State that has dramatically increased in the frequency of records since 1981 (Wahl et al. 2005). Most records come from the east side of the state from the Columbia basin, however, there are many records from the west side of Washington State (Wahl et al. 2005). Birds pushing northward, especially in the spring, is a result of drought and a lack of breeding habitat in the south (Wahl et al. 2005). In British Columbia, the White-faced Ibis is a casually occurring species with over 35 Provincial records (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). There are no records for Alaska (Gibson et al. 2013).

Occurrence and Documentation

In British Columbia, the White-faced Ibis is a casual species with 39 Provincial records (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). There are 26 records from the spring migration period from April 1 –June 10 (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). The birds that have turned up in this time period are likely spring overshoots in migration as there are no breeding records for British Columbia (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). One of the main factors that drives this bird north in the spring is when there are severe drought conditions in the species’ core range (Ryder and Manry 1994, Wahl et al. 2005). This explanation does fit many records that involve multiple birds, but some birds could just be overshoots that were thrown off course by large weather events. There are no confirmed breeding records for British Columbia with only 2 summer records in the July – August time period (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). The lack of breeding evidence is reflected in that there are only 8 fall records from the September – November time period (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). It is likely these birds were birds that became off course in the fall or were possibly post breeding wanderers that went too far north of their core range. This species has occurred throughout British Columbia with 21 records from the interior, 4 records from the Vancouver area, 13 from Vancouver Island, 1 from the Queen Charlotte Islands, and 1 historical skin specimen from Chilliwack (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). It is likely this species will continue to venture north in the future. It is important for all observers to be aware that Glossy Ibis could turn up in the Province as a vagrant and all fall birds should be photographed and carefully examined for this potential species.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeSNAAccidentalNot Listed

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

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