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Fr: Ibis à face noire
All : Schwarzzügelibis
Esp: Bandurria
Esp : (Argentine): Bandurria austral, Bandurria común
Esp : (Chile): Bandurria
Ital : Ibis faccianera
Nd: Zwartmaskeribis
Sd: Svartmaskad ibis


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Summary cards

Black-faced Ibis
Theristicus melanopis

Pelecaniformes Order – Threskiornithidae Family

Length: 71-76 cm
Weight: 1100-1400 g

The Black-faced Ibis is a South American species, a noisy bird of open grassy habitats.

The adult of nominate race has grey upperparts. Greater wing-coverts are white, whereas primary coverts, all flight feathers, rump and tail are bluish-black or glossy green. The neck is buffy-white to pale ochraceous
On the underparts, chin, throat and breast are ochraceous-buff with grey breast band. The lower breast is more ochraceous. Belly, vent and undertail-coverts are black.

On the head, forecrown crown, nape and hindneck are rufous with head darker than neck. The bare face is black, and we can see a small black bare skin area on chin and throat, as a wattle.

The long, slender, blackish bill is decurved, with slit-like nostrils at bill base. This morphological feature allows the bird to breathe while feeding and probing into water and mud. The eyes are red, surrounded by black orbital skin. Robust legs and feet are reddish.
Both sexes are similar.

Immature shows dark streaks on neck and scaled pattern on wing-coverts due to buff feathers edges.

We can find two subspecies:
T.m. melanopis (described above) is found in S Chile and S Argentina. They move to N Argentina after breeding season. There is an isolated population in coastal Peru.
T.m. brackinii occurs in highlands of Ecuador, Peru, NW Bolivia and extreme N Chile. This one is paler than nominate. Foreneck and breast are less ochraceous and more whitish. The bare skin area on chin and throat is often smaller.

T.m. brackinii

The Black-faced Ibis is often noisy during the breeding season, during pair formation and nesting duties, but also at roosts or when in flocks. It gives harsh, guttural, low calls including in flight. The bird stretches its neck backwards with the bill pointing skywards while calling loudly.

The Black-faced Ibis frequents open areas in fields, grasslands or pastures. It can be seen in wet areas such as damp valleys with rushes and marshy areas, and lake and river shores. But arid ranchland, sandy habitats or open dry forests are frequented too.

This species is fairly adaptable for nesting, using sites such as emergent tree stumps in marshes and reedbeds, or rocky outcrops, or cliff ledges and gullies, and occasionally trees. It is visible from sea-level up to 3000 metres of elevation.
The race “branickii” can be seen between 3000 and 5000 metres in the highlands of its range.

See above in “subspecies”

The Black-faced Ibis feeds on invertebrates and small vertebrates. It forages in pairs or in small groups, but can also be seen alone. It forages by walking slowly and probes into vegetation, soil, mud or water. When feeding in dry areas, it walks more quickly while pecking at the ground, probing in cracks or between stones.
Thanks to its robust legs, flexible neck and long, sensitive bill, it may detect the preys by touch. Usual preys are insects, molluscs and worms, amphibians, and occasionally small birds and rodents. Small items are swallowed immediately.  

T.m. brackinii

At the beginning of the breeding season, the Black-faced Ibis becomes noisier. This species breeds in colonies, sometimes with other species such as Black-crowned Night Herons or cormorants of genus Phalacrocorax in the southern parts of the range.

They are monogamous and pairs form at the colony. The male establishes a small territory and defends it against rivals through some threat displays, wing flapping, head stretching and chases in flight.
Between mates, we can observe bowing displays, presentation of nest materials, mutual billing during which the birds hold their bills and shake them in unison.
As in other birds’ species, ritualized displays strengthen the pair-bonds which usually last during one breeding season. Copulation takes place on the nest-site territory.

The Black-faced Ibis of the southern parts of Chile and Argentina migrates to the pampas of N Argentina. The species is breeding summer visitor in Tierra del Fuego and irregular vagrant to Falkland Islands.

The Black-faced Ibis flies at great heights during migrations. They fly in line-shaped flocks of about 100 birds when moving northwards. The flight is powerful and fast, with interspersed flapping flight and glides.   

The laying occurs between September and March in coastal Peru, and September and December in S Chile and Tierra del Fuego.

The Black-faced Ibis nests in colonies of 10-30 to 50 pairs, rarely solitary.
Both sexes build the nest, a large platform made with sticks and dry branches, with the inner part lined with grass and rush weeds. But the nest is usually made with materials associated to the site, such as reeds if the colony is established in reedbed. It can also be situated on cliff ledges and rocky outcrops, on the ground near water, and occasionally in trees.

Female lays 2-3 pale yellowish-white eggs with brown spots. Both parents incubate during one month. Chicks are covered in grey down, with paler head and underparts. Adults feed them by regurgitation during 35-40 days before they leave the nest.

The Black-faced Ibis feeds on insects, worms, molluscs, frogs, salamanders, and occasionally on small birds and rodents.

The Black-faced Ibis is common in S Chile and S Argentina, but mostly uncommon or rare in N Chile and Peru.
The subspecies “branickii” is very local throughout its range.

However, populations appear to be stable, and this species is not currently threatened.
T.m. brackinii