By Jennifer Nixon, Denver Zoo Bird Keeper
Introducing this week’s Feathered Friend - Alice the Scarlet Ibis, (Eudocimus ruber). Some people confuse her with a flamingo since she is also long-legged and bright pink. Flamingos however are much larger and spend most of their time on the ground. Alice likes to spend her time mainly in the canopy during the day basking in the sunshine. Since she is crepuscular Alice is most active at dusk and dawn and that is when she comes down to the ground to eat.
Alice has a summer home and a winter home since she is not very tolerant to cold weather. In the summer you will find her in the trees of the Primate Panorama Forest Aviary with some roseate spoonbills and cattle egrets. In the winter, you will find her in the flamingo winter holding exhibit above the flamingos with the same spoonbills and egrets. Alice was just moved to her summer home yesterday to enjoy some warm weather and sunshine. In the wild all of these species can overlap in their ranges because they all have a slightly different way of eating. Scarlet ibis use their super cool beak to probe in the mud for food.
Alice will be 21 years old this July (which will obviously require a lot of celebrating!) and was hatched in San Antonio, Texas. She has lived here in Denver for three years.
Alice eats fish, meat and krill as her main diet and sometimes she gets small mice or mealworms as a treat. Like flamingos, the colour of her feathers is dependent on what she eats, so we also add some red pigment to her food. In the wild the color would come from shellfish like shrimps that contain a carotenoid pigment. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out in a flock with her other bird friends.
Her species is from South America, mostly on the north coast where they live in a number of aquatic habitats, such as mangroves and mud flats. The population size is numerous and they are designated as Least Concern by the IUCN Redlist, however locally they are in decline in some areas. In the wild it would be normal for scarlet ibis to live in groups with other species, just like they do here at the Denver Zoo. This is most likely since large numbers provide good protection from predators in the wild. Alice doesn’t have to worry about that here in her summer or winter home. Many people now consider scarlet ibis and American white ibis to be two subspecies of the same American ibis and wish to have then reclassified as such.
You can visit at her current home in Primate Panorama Forest Aviary near the Great Apes building. It might be hard to see her legs when she is high up in a tree but Alice wears a purple band on her right leg. Bring your binoculars for a better look. Inside the aviary you can walk amongst the birds for an up close and personal experience.