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When ogling what I like to call big, white waterbirds (geese, swans, storks, pelicans, egrets, ibis) that are flying over, perhaps the most important aspect to determine quickly (our quiz birds are heading away!) is, if at least some of the remiges (plural of remex = wing flight feather) are dark, determining the extent of that dark. Since our birds do have at least some dark remiges, we can rule out swans, white egrets, and Jabiru. If the bird in question has at least some dark remiges, then determine whether dark remiges are restricted to the primaries or does the dark extend into the secondaries. Snow and Ross’s geese, tropicbirds, Northern Gannet, and White Ibis generally have the dark remiges restricted to the primaries, though younger ages of the latter two have more extensive dark in the remiges.
If the dark extends into the secondaries, then determine if it reaches the body or not. All of a Wood Stork’s remiges are dark, while the innermost remiges of American White Pelican are white. Since our birds’ remiges are dark to the body, this must be a Wood Stork.
One problem, though, the birds’ bills look far too delicate to be the bills of Wood Storks. Note that I wrote above “the most important aspect,” not “the only aspect.” Yes, we have winnowed the potentials list to just one species that has all of its remiges dark – at all ages. However, I also noted above that a plumage of white wing linings and all-dark remiges is exhibited by a couple of species that, as adults, typically have the dark restricted to the primaries. I will be more specific here: some immature Northern Gannets and all juvenile White Ibis exhibit such a plumage. Looking abaft at our birds, we can see legs projecting beyond the tail tips, while the bills of our quiz birds are very long and they also look decurved.
I took this picture of three juvenile White Ibis at Smith Point, Chambers Co., TX, on 12 September 2013.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the December Bird Photo Quiz—White Ibis:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.