by Skip Via
Kalispell’s West Valley is situated toward the northern end of the breeding range of the beautiful white faced ibis. The spring migration season of 2020 was witness to an unusually large number of these birds making their presence known in the valley. We’ve had multiple sightings of more than 50 birds at once at the Potholes and the West Valley Wildlife Viewing area (see Locations), and fewer at Bowser Lake in the Pig Farm state trust land area.
White faced ibises feed in shallow marshes and ponds, consuming larvae, insects, worms, frogs, and small fish. While they appear dark when viewed from afar, breeding adults have spectacularly colored, almost metallic looking feathers if seen in the right light. They nest in dense marsh and sometimes in low trees, producing 3-4 eggs per pair.
White faced ibises were once on the decline in the western United States due to pesticides and habitat loss, but they seem to be making a comeback lately due to protections. DDT, banned in the 1970s, caused ibis shells to be so thin that they cracked when the birds sat on them to nest, and wetland loss was a major problem as well. White faced ibises are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918–although they were not added until the 1960s–so they cannot be shot or taken in any other way without permission.
(Photo and videos by Skip Via.)