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White-faced Ibis

White-faced Ibis
Plegadis chihi

The White-faced Ibis is a medium size wading bird with a 3-foot wingspan. They can be found feeding in large flocks from just few birds up to a 10,000 birds, using their long sensitive bills to probe the shallow waters and mudflats, they inhabit, for their prey. White-faced ibis roost and build their nests in bushes or low trees usually over shallow water. This species is rare and unexpected in Tennessee, but occurs every couple of years.

Description: Long neck with a dark, bronze-chestnut sheen body. The white-faced ibis has long pinkish-red legs and lore, decurved dark bill, reddish eyes, and a bare face with a line of white feathers separating the face from the forehead. In fall, a RED iris is a key identification marker.
Length: 23 inches
Wingspan: 36 inches
Weight: 1.3 lbs

Voice: Deep goose-like nasal quack and multi-note “oink”.

Similar Species:

  • Glossy Ibis – Blue-gray lore, little or no red on legs, dark eye.
  • White Ibis – Larger, heavier than all other ibis, broader wings, thicker, orange-red bill, white plumage with small black wing tips.
  • Herons – have straight bills not curved bills.

Habitat: In Tennessee, the White-faced Ibis can occasionally be found in freshwater wetlands, flooded hay meadows and agricultural fields.

Diet: Earthworms, aquatic insects, crustaceans, newts, fish and frogs.

Nesting and reproduction: There are no known records of this species nesting in Tennessee.

Status in Tennessee: The White-faced ibis is occasionally found in Tennessee in shallow water and freshwater wetlands, typically in western Tennessee.

Dynamic map of White-faced Ibis eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • Males have longer bill and legs than females.
  • These birds are wary and shy

Obsolete English Names: None

Best places to see in Tennessee: Ensley Bottoms, Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Reelfoot Lake area

For more information:


Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Alsop, F.J, 2001, Birds of North America, DK Publishing, New York, NY

Peterson, R.T., 2002, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, Houghton Mifflin, New York, New York

Ryder, Ronald A. and David E. Manry. 1994. White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online

Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.