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The vivid red-pink Scarlet Ibis: Light Talks with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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Trinidad’s national bird, the Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber) is a protected species. This short Light Talks video, narrated by Debi Talbot from Smithsonian’s National Zoo, introduces this vivid red-pink bird.

Their signature long probing bill is their tool for finding insects, small fish, and crustaceans in wetlands, mangrove swamps, and mudflats in northern South America. From the Brattleboro Reformer in 2010:

“The scarlet ibis is a rather small wading bird — about two feet in length, weighing less than 1.5 pounds. Its long decurved beak is pink; its legs and feet are reddish pink. Its plumage is brilliant, bright red. Only the tips of the wings are black, a feature which gives added strength to the long primary feathers.

“‘Brilliant, bright red’ may seem like an overstated description. If ‘red’ needs an adjective, one would think that either ‘brilliant’ or ‘bright’ would do the job. Not in this case. The brilliant, bright red scarlet ibis is almost surreal. Flocks of dozens, or hundreds, come down to the green leaves of the mangrove trees, making the evening sky look like some gigantic red and green Christmas tableau…”

scarlet ibis feathers
Like the flamingo, the Scarlet Ibis has saturated feathers because of its favorite food: Carotenoid-rich red crabs.

“Carotenoids are a class of organic pigments that are produced by plants. These red, yellow, and orange pigments help plants to absorb light energy for photosynthesis and prevent degradation of chlorophyll. Animals that eat plants rich in carotenoids, or which eat other animals rich in carotenoids, enjoy numerous benefits from these compounds just as the plants do.”

scarlet ibis
Learn about the scarlet ibis via the National Aquarium.

The video is one of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Light Talks, a series highlighting the critically endangered and extraordinary creatures in their care. Learn more about the Brown Kiwi next.

Then watch these related videos:
• How do baby flamingos become pink?
• Why is Lake Hillier pink?
• Roseate spoonbills in Florida’s St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge
The Grand Prismatic Spring: One of Nature’s Most Amazing Sights

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