White-Faced Ibis

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With the Sierras above us still capped with El Nino’s snowfall, the rice growers have flooded and planted most of their fields this year – turning Homeward Bound into lakefront property for a few months. The more than 500,000 acres of the valley’s rice lands are located along the Pacific Flyway, and the flooded fields provide critical migration corridors for shoreline birds and others.

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Looking out from the garden, I saw this long dark line of what looked like turkeys pecking at the marshy field.

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Sadly, I did not have my long lens (naturally!), but I could get close enough to ID them as White-faced Ibis – a bird I had not seen in the fields before.

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Apparently, their numbers declined dangerously in the 60’s and 70’s due to DDT contamination and habitat destruction. The inland population has rebounded somewhat in the past few decades, but the pesticides used in rice farming are still a concern.

These dark birds with their long bills and metallic coloring wade through the fields picking their way through shallow waters looking for a meal: invertebrates, crustaceans, frogs, and fishes.

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Until, you spook them, of course!

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