The status of the White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) in the Great Basin is of concern because of its small population size and the limited and dynamic nature of its breeding habitat. We analyzed existing annual survey data for the White-faced Ibis breeding in the Great Basin and surrounding area for 1985-1997. Methods varied among colonies and included flight-line counts and fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter surveys. The number of White-faced Ibis breeding pairs in the Great Basin area has nearly tripled since 1985, despite years of severe flooding and drought at major breeding areas. This growth is reflected in both peripheral (i.e., Oregon, California, Idaho) and core (i.e., Nevada and Utah) components of the population. Our data on colony dynamics in Oregon and Nevada illustrate the ability of the highly nomadic White-faced Ibis to compensate for poor conditions at traditional colony sites by moving among colonies and rapidly colonizing newly available wetlands. We suggest that the White-faced Ibis would benefit from a landscape mosaic of well-distributed peripheral wetlands and persistent colony sites. The nomadic nature of the White-faced Ibis and the dynamic nature of their breeding habitat necessitates that wetland management decisions and population monitoring be conducted in a regional context.
Additional publication details
Status of the White-faced Ibis: Breeding colony dynamics of the Great Basin population, 1985-1997