Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
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General Comments The White-faced Ibis is the Western counterpart of the Glossy Ibis, and it also nests along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. Though it has been reported as a stray in nearly all Eastern states, with about nine records from Virginia (Rottenborn and Brinkley 2007), its history in North Carolina has been rather embarrassing. There was a report from Pea Island on 10 May 1973 (Am. Birds 31:979), but a description was never published or made available to the NC BRC. It wasn't until the 21st Century that the first documented record came from the state (in 2002), and the second (a sight record only) came in 2011. Several additional records, accompanied by photos, came in early 2013, from the same site (Mattamuskeet NWR) as the 2011 record. Perhaps not surprisingly, observers re-discovered additional White-faced Ibises at this refuge in early spring 2014, and into Jan 2015. One must wonder if the species overwinters at the refuge, where birds in winter plumage and bare part coloration could be easily overlooked among the Glossy Ibises. It is likely that the great difficulty in separating the two species is the reason for it having been reported just a handful of times in the state. At last, an inland record was made in spring 2015.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Casual (and certainly overlooked) visitor, but records increasing; most records from Mattamuskeet NWR (Hyde). There are at least seven records (many accepted by the NC BRC): one seen by many observers, and photographed, at a ditch in South Nags Head (Dare) from 1-18 Jul 2002* [Chat 69:40-42 link]; one seen at Lake Mattamuskeet on 28 Apr 2011* [Chat 76:2 link]; and the following collection of reports (one record), also from Mattamuskeet NWR, in early 2013* [Chat 78:8-13 link]. One was photographed on 25 Feb [Chat 77:51 link], 4 birds were picked out of a Glossy Ibis flock on 12 Mar at that refuge, 5 were there on the following day, and 4 were seen there as late as 8 Apr, all in 2013 [Chat 77:86 link]. In spring 2014, as many as 5 birds were seen at this refuge from 3-23 Apr* [Chat 79:13 link]. Two were at this refuge on 17 Apr 2016, with one still there on 14 May. The first record for the fall season was of two at that refuge on 3 Nov 2014. At least one was seen at that refuge on 29 Dec 2014 and the same or another bird was there on 18 Jan 2015 [Chat 79:95 link]. An adult was photographed on Raccoon Island (Carteret) on 15 May 2015* [Chat 79:178 link] [Chat 80:14 link].
Piedmont One record: one in breeding plumage photographed (photos on the CBC Photo Gallery) at Lake Brandt (Guilford) on 4 Apr 2015 [Chat 79:131 link].
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips With the multiple records now from Mattamuskeet NWR, essentially at the impoundments south of Lake Mattamuskeet, one should carefully check over the Glossy Ibis flocks there, especially in spring (when the bare skin color around the eyes and face is more dramatic -- red in White-faced and bluish in Glossy). Also check eye color (red in White-faced and brown in Glossy) and leg color (which can be tricky) to help separate these two similar species.
Attribution LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2016-12-12], LeGrand[2016-06-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.