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image for Audubon paints the White Ibis in Florida Keys and Key West

A Guide to John Audubon's visit to the Florida Keys 

 

 

 

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AUDUBON


INDIAN KEY
1832


CORMORANT


ROSEATE
TERN


GRAY
KINGBIRD


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HERON


SANDY KEY


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SPOONBILL


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WHITE
HERON


GREAT
BLUE
HERON


KEY WEST
DOVE


FLAMINGOS


BLUE-
HEADED
QUAIL DOVE


FRIGATE BIRD


BROWN
PELICAN


MANGROVE
CUCKOO


TORTUGAS


SOOTY
TERN


BLACK
HEADED GULL


BROWN
NODDY


CAYENNE
TERN


BROWN
BOOBY


SANDWICH
TERN


NIGHT
HERON


GREENSHANK


GREAT
MARBLED
GODWIT


MANGO
HUMMING-
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TROPIC
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John Audubon observes the White Ibis

 

map of Florida Keys and Key West

White Ibis


 

White Ibis
Audubon painting of White Ibis from Birds of America

While Audubon was at Sandy Key he observed the White Ibis. Some portions of Audubon's account of the White Ibis from his Ornithological Biography , Volume III, appear below:

 

"Sandy Island, (Sandy Key) of which I have already spoken in my second volume, is remarkable as a breeding-place for various species of water and land birds. It is about a mile in length, not more than a hundred yards broad, and in form resembles a horse-shoe, the inner curve of which looks toward Cape Sable in Florida, from which it is six miles distant. At low water, it is surrounded to a great distance by mud flats abounding in food for wading and swimming birds, while the plant, fruits and the insects of the island itself, supply many species that are particular to the land. Beside the White Ibis, we found breeding there the Brown Pelican, the Purple, the Louisiana, the White, and the Green Herons, two species of Gallinule, the cardinal Grosbeak, Crows, and Pigeons. The vegetation consists of a few tall mangroves, thousands of wild plum trees, several species of cactus, some of them nearly as thick as a man's body, and more than twenty feet high, different sorts of smilax, grape-vines, cane, palmettoes, Spanish bayonets, and the rankest nettles I ever saw, -all tangled together, that I leave you to guess how difficult it was for my companions and myself to force a passage through them in search of birds' nests, which however, we effected, although the heat was excessive, and the stench produced by the dead birds, putrid eggs, and the natural effluvia of the Ibises, was scarcely sufferable. But then, the White Ibises was there, and in the thousands; and, although I already knew the bird, I wished to study its manners once more, that I might be able to present you with an account of them, which I now proceed to do, -endeavouring all the while to forget the pain of numerous scratches and lacerations of my legs caused by the cactuses of Sandy Island."

" As we entered that well-known place, we saw nests on every bush, cactus, or tree. Whether the number was one thousand or ten I cannot say, but this I well know: -I counted forty-seven on a single plum -tree. These nests of the White Ibis measure about fifteen inches in diameter, and are formed of dry twigs intermixed with fibrous roots and green branches growing on the island . . . ."

". . . As birds of this genus feed by night as well as by day, the White Ibis attends the tides at whatever hour they maybe. Some of which bred on Sandy key would go to the keys next the Atlantic, more than forty miles distant, while others made for the Ever Glades; (Everglades) but they never went off singly. They rose with common accord from the breeding ground, forming themselves into long lines, often a mile in extent, and soon disappeared from view. Soon after the turn of the tide we saw them approaching in the same order. Not a note could you have heard on these occasions; yet if you disturb them when far from their nests, they utter loud hoarse cries resembling the syllables hunk, hunk, hunk, either while on the ground or as they flop off."

"While at Indian Key, I observed an immense quantity of beautiful tree snails, of a pyramidal or shortly spiral form, some pure white others curiously marked with spiral lines of bright red, yellow and black. they were crawling vigorously on every branch of each bush where there was not a nest of the White Ibis; but wherever that bird had fixed a habitation, not a live snail was to be seen, although hundreds lay dead beneath. was this caused by the corrosive quality of the bird's ordure?"

 


This website includes some photos taken by wildlife naturalist photographers. The photo of White Ibises in flight by wildlife photographer, Preston Manning, was taken at Carl Ross Key and is displayed with his permission. All photographs are copyrighted by the owner.  Please respect the copyright.  The use of any of the photographs on this web site without the written permission of the owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 photo by Preston Manning of White Ibises taken at Carl Ross Key

 

 

Preston Manning
722 Iowa St.
Golden, CO 80403
303.278.8988

E-mail preston@wildlandphotography.com

 


Click on picture taken at Duck Key  for larger image

 


Additional information about the white ibis may be found by following the link below to the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas. The Atlas, a collaborative effort of Audubon of Florida, the Florida Ornithological Society, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission provides information of general status, habitat, and status of  breeding species in Florida.

http://wildflorida.org/bba/WHIB.htm  

 

Additional information about the white ibis may be found by following this link to eNature.com

 

 


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