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Plumage and Behavioral Development of Nestling White Ibises

Toni L. De Santo, Susan G. McDowell and Keith L. Bildstein
The Wilson Bulletin
Vol. 102, No. 2 (Jun., 1990), pp. 226-238
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4162861
Page Count: 13
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Plumage and Behavioral Development of Nestling White Ibises
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Abstract

We describe the physical characteristics and behavioral development of 17 hand-reared and more than 400 parent-reared nestling White Ibises (Eudocimus albus) hatched in 1985 through 1988 at Pumpkinseed Island, a large colony site in coastal South Carolina. Hatchling ibises are covered with a Pale Neutral Gray to Jet Black natal plumage. About 30% of the hatchlings possess a tuft of white feathers on their crown, and this pattern persists throughout the nestling period. Juvenal plumage, which is complete by 60 days, is mainly Vandyke Brown and Blackish Neutral Gray dorsally and creamy white ventrally. The bill, which is straight at hatching, begins to curve downward at about 14 days. Nestling White Ibises exhibit considerable individual variation in bill markings from approximately 10 days of age through fledging. Increasingly persistent begging vocalizations begin within hours of hatching. Nestlings walk on partially extended legs at eight days of age, pirate food from other nestlings and form creches at 21 days of age, and fledge and join all juvenile and mixed-age feeding flocks at 45-55 days of age. We suggest that the phenotypic variability in plumage, bill coloration, and begging calls we describe enables parental ibises to identify more easily their offspring at the colony site.

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