I began duck hunting when I was 12 years old. That was 1952. There were so many ducks on Catahoula Lake that getting your limit was not a problem. I liked to shoot mallards, especially drakes. They were so beautiful with colors that defy description. There were many other ducks to hunt, but I was picky. I also liked to shoot at buffleheads, but I seldom hit one. I had a 12 gauge, Sears Roebuck, double barreled shot gun. The left side was a modified barrel, and the right-hand side was a full choke barrel. I shot the left-hand barrel when shooting squirrels, doves, quail, armadillos, snakes and rabbits. I usually shot number 7 or 8 at those birds and animals. I used the full choke barrel to shoot ducks, geese and deer. I used number 6 shots or buck shots for these birds and or animals.
Every time I’d go duck hunting, I would see a lot off strange looking “ducks” that no one seemed to know anything about. I knew what a coot was, but this particular bird seemed to be an “unknown” specie. I followed the rule of “if you can’t name it, don’t shoot it.” One day I ask the local Game Warden about this mysterious duck, and he said that it was a white ibis. He also said, “It ain’t a game bird, so don’t shoot it.” That was good enough for me!
As time went by, I stopped hunting ducks with a shotgun and began shooting them with a camera. I seldom missed when shooting with a camera… and you don’t have to clean ‘em afterwards!
The white ibis was a bird that I wanted to know more about. Here’s the information that I found about the white ibis:
• It is classified as a wading bird such as herons, egrets, etc.
• The birds are found in marsh area from coastal North Carolina to the coastal areas of Texas. Every time I go to South Padra Island, Texas, I see these birds in great numbers. I go there for the first two weeks of February each year.
• Ibis stands about 28 inches tall with white feathers that have black tipped wings. Immature ibises are brown.
• These birds are social birds. When you them they will be in groups of a dozen or more.
• Feeding behavior: They feed in groups on crawfish, small fish, minnows, dragon fly’s, crickets, grasshoppers, frogs, frog eggs, earthworms, and other small insects.
• Eggs: Usually, eggs are laid with as few 2 per nest and as many as 5 in a nest.
• Nesting: They nest as colonies. If you want to see some of their nests, I suggest you go to Abbeville, La. There you will find many of these nests. The nests are usually made of small sticks interwoven with concord grass or reeds.
• It’s not unusual to see a colony of ibis in people’s yards in the San Padra Island area.
So, there you have it. To me they are one of God’s masterpieces of bird development.
For more information on the ibis: Obtain a copy of the book “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds,” or, check your local library to see if they have a copy on hand or see if they can obtain one through inter-library loan. If you don’t find one there, look on Amazon Books for a copy.
(Narrative and photo provided by Jena native Gale Trussell)