Okefenokee “Curlew”

White Ibis foraging along the Suwannee River Sill; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. November 14, 2021 ©www.williamwisephoto.com

Because of their preference for shallow wetlands, the White Ibis is a common inhabitant of the Okefenokee Swamp.  eBird frequency charts for Charlton County shows consistent observations listed every month of the year.

Their bright orange legs, and somewhat goofy-looking curved orange bill make them hard to misidentify. The small groups that gather together to amble along stir up the waters during feeding time adds to their comical appearance. In the air, they are much more graceful in appearance, especially when a golden sunrise or sunset illuminates their white bodies and black tipped wings as they fly overhead.

According to Francis Harper, the Swampers referred to them as “White Curlews”, or just “Curlew”. They also referred to the brown juveniles as a separate species. “The natives speak of ‘Brown Curlews’ which often fly and feed apart from the white forms. They also designate some brown and white ones as ‘Pieded Curlews’ or ‘Black-pieded Curlews,’ which roost with the other two. These are doubtless the younger phases of the one species. The hunters eat these ‘Curlews’ either ‘stewed like chicken’ or fried…”

  • Wright, Albert and Francis Harper. A Biological Reconnaissance of the Okefinokee Swamp: The Birds. The Auk, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Oct., 1913), pp. 477-505 Published by: Oxford University Press.

1 Comment

  1. Your title got me off guard. I had forgotten that ibises were called curlews long ago. First actual curlew I saw was on the Texas Gulf Coast near Aransas, saw Reddish Egrets and a faraway sighting of Whooping Cranes also. After so may years living in the swamp it seems folks would realize the color differences between adult and younger ibis.

    Liked by 1 person

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