At once grotesque and stunningly beautiful, the ibis was venerated by the ancient Egyptians because of its association with the Nile River, the source and protector of life. A hieroglyph in the form of an ibis represented Thoth, one of the most important gods, mediator of good and evil, creator of the 365 day calendar and inventor of the hieroglyph method of writing. Florida folklore regards the ibis (mascot of the University of Miami) as a bit more humble a hero, the last creature to take shelter before a hurricane and the first to reappear afterward.
As a kid in New Jersey, in addition to the White and Glossy Ibis, I memorized the pictures of the Wood Ibis. To my mind, all three represented truly exotic creatures that, one day, I hoped to see.The Wood Ibis was subsequently upgraded to Wood Stork, but the classification of these birds remains in flux, as discussed in this interesting Wikipedia entry.
When I was 12 years old, I sighted a Glossy Ibis in Troy Meadows, New Jersey. My view was a drop-dead match for the picture in Peterson, but none of the older birders at the Hackensack Audubon Society considered my observation to be credible. The Glossy Ibis, an African native, had wandered to the US, by way of South America, only about 50 years before. No Glossy Ibis had been seen in the northern part of the state in over 10 years. Later that year, others were seen in the same location (and they are now fairly common there and northward up the Atlantic Coast), but my sighting was never made part of the “official” record. I blogged about my early-teen anguish in this entry: Quest for Rare Birds.
As commonplace as the White Ibis may be, as it walks our Florida neighborhood lawns and even breaks open garbage bags to obtain snacks, I cannot help but stop and stare when I see one. These three walked along the margin of our lake, seemingly in a great hurry. Two retained some dark head and body feathers, indicating they had hatched out this year. An adult-plumage bird followed closely behind. Might it possibly have been one of their parents?
Adult Ibis walking along the shore of our lake:
It was following these two immature Ibises: