Campus News

Ornithologist examines the white ibis’s move to the ‘burbs’

Sonia Hernandez, professor of wildlife disease in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, partnered with the National Audubon Society to discuss research into white ibis movement with Audubon.

Her research has shown that the white ibis are moving more and more into urban areas, a shift from previous years.

“White Ibis are kind of like sheep, in a way. They’re afraid to do new things, but once one individual does it, they follow,” Hernandez said. “We’re on a crusade to figure out whether urbanization is good for them or not.”

Hernandez was surprised by how habituated the birds were to city life, often seen walking between people and along the sidewalk.

“I thought, ‘This is just so bizarre that a bird that is so built for a very specific way of foraging would adapt in this way,’” she said.

There are also other questions to be asked.

“And why them and not other wading birds?” Hernandez and her team have asked. The white ibis stands out from other birds of their kind as they make their way into more and more urban settings.

“The results point to the fact that there are some specific tradeoffs to using urbanized environments,” she said. “But what does that mean for the birds in the long-term?”

Hernandez hopes to find out.