The Northern Prairie and Parkland Waterbird Conservation Plan calls for renewed attention to determining the current status of waterbird populations, their distributions, and conservation needs. It highlights the need for baseline information on the White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi). In response, we examined the historical and current distribution of the ibis in North Dakota and summarized first sightings and nest records for the provinces and other states composing the northern prairie and parkland region. The establishment of breeding colonies of White-faced Ibis here may be due to climate and precipitation patterns, invasion and spread of Narrowleaf Cattail (Typha angustifolia), changes in agricultural practices, habitat loss and range expansion in the southern and western portions of the species' range, and increases in ibis populations in the Intermountain West. We placed special emphasis on North Dakota, a state for which there is scant published information concerning the current status of this species. In recent decades, the ibis has become a regular breeding-season resident in North Dakota and in other areas of the northern prairie and parkland region. From 1882 to 2002, there were 145 reports of one or more White-faced Ibis in North Dakota, including 93 reports during the breeding season (15 May to 31 August), 49 during the non-breeding season (1 September to 14 May), and three for which the season of occurrence was not reported. Prior to the 1960s, there were only three records of the species in North Dakota. Observations of White-faced Ibises in North Dakota increased dramatically between the 1960s and the early 21st century, and the species has been observed nearly annually since 1971. The first White-faced Ibis nesting activity in the state was recorded in 1978, and to date, there have been 21 known records of nesting activity in the state. The species nested in large (>300 ha) semipermanent or permanent wetlands within mixed-species colonies ranging in areal extent from small (0.1 ha) to fairly large (27 ha), and colonies were located in patches of emergent vegetation dominated by cattails (Typha) and bulrushes (Scirpus). We classify the White-faced Ibis as a fairly common migrant and a locally uncommon breeder east of the Missouri River and a casual migrant west of the Missouri River.
Additional publication details
Pattern and potential causes of White-faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi, establishment in the northern prairie and parkland region of North America