Rare bird spotted near Priest's Pond

This ibis was seen in Priest's Pond early last week. This type of bird is rare for this part of the world, and was probably blown up here from it's natural home in the United States by a storm. Submitted photo.

A different kind of tourist flew into eastern PEI early last week.

On Tuesday, Lois Kilburn of Priest Pond noticed a different looking bird at the end of her dock and reached for her Peterson Bird Guide Book to try and identify it.

“He’s a darkish bird,” she said. “In a different light he looks iridescent green and sometimes he looks jet black depending on the light. His head is a little more on the brown side.”

Ms Kilburn narrowed the bird down to a glossy ibis, a marsh-wader normally found in the warmer climates of southeastern United States or the Caribbean, but can be found as far north as New Jersey, or even Maine.

“I think he might have come in on that large storm we had over the weekend,” she said. “He’s been swept a long way.”

She thinks the bird is still young and hasn’t grown into its full colours yet.

“When he grows up he’s going to be quite handsome with kind of red shoulders and greenish eyes,” Ms Kilburn said.

The editor the Island Naturalist newsletter, Dan McAskill of Donagh, has seen photos of the Priest Pond visitor and has confirmed the bird is a glossy ibis. However, he said it is very difficult to tell the difference between a juvenile bird and an adult, as well as whether it is male or female.

“You can’t tell them apart,” he said.

Mr McAskill has been an avid birder for more than 50 years and said ibises are rare this far north, although there have been a few sightings over the years and he was lucky enough to have seen one. The last time an ibis was seen in PEI was August 20, 2012 in Alexandria and before that, four were spotted in Glenfanning in April 2007. There have been seven reports of the glossy ibis on PEI before this one, since 2000.

“The ones we’ve had in the last 40 years, they’ve mostly been spring sightings,” he said. “But this one in the autumn is an exception.”

Ms Kilburn said ibises have occasionally been sighted off Cape Cod and southern Nova Scotia.

She said the ibis isn’t at all shy and allows her to get within approximately 10 feet.

“You can get him to pose for a photo by coughing or saying something a little noisy,” she said. “It gets his attention and his head comes up.”

The ibis flew away a day or two after it arrived in Priest Pond, Ms Kilburn said, however it soon returned.

“It took off and flew out toward the ocean,” she said. “But he came right back and was here first thing (Thursday) morning.”

Mr McAskill said the glossy ibis is a migratory species and it should leave Priest Pond on its own accord.

“Some of the rare birds that do show up may stay around for a period of several days or even weeks, but usually they’re often gone after a couple of days.”

He said the most northern of these birds may experience some dispersal due to strong wind storms coming mostly from the south west, and after such storms is when birders head out to try and spot any displaced species.

For now, the glossy ibis seems quite content off Ms Kilburn’s dock.

“It’s eating constantly,” she said. “The poor little thing was probably pretty starved from beating its wings against the wind on that flight up here.”

Mr McAskill said eastern PEI seems to be where a lot of the rarer bird species turn up.

In 2011, a trumpeter swan was spotted in MacLure’s Pond near Murray River. In 1994, a black vulture and a pied crow were found at the Souris lighthouse. Black vultures are normally found in the southeastern United States and South America, while pied crows are native to Africa.

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