Flossy the Glossy

Flossy in flight at Goldcliff Lagoons

It's amazing don't you think that we have a Glossy Ibis residing on the Gwent Levels? Over a year ago in January 2019, a keen-eyed birder had reported seeing a Glossy Ibis in the Uskmouth area of Newport Wetlands.

On the 20th of January, I was doing an early Sunday morning birdwatch at Goldcliff Lagoons and was making my way up the steps of the Marsh Platform. The weather had been quite dull and miserable since dawn and not that much happening. I was to be very surprised when out of the reed bed on Priors rose a big heron sized bird that looked like some kind of weird hybrid between a Curlew and a Cormorant. It was the Glossy Ibis. It caused pandemonium amongst the local birds as they thought it was some kind of predator. I managed to grab the first photographs of it back then and included a few below. I wrote my first blog post about the Ibis the following afternoon entitled "A dull day but one bird put a gloss on it".

My first pictures of Flossy

A typical photo that silhouettes 

It was going to be the beginning of many sightings that to this date have not ceased. In fact, what has spurred me to write this post was the sightings I had yesterday morning at Goldcliff of this fantastic creature. There has been rarely a week without a sighting of "Flossy" as the bird has become to be affectionately known.

The colors are amazing when the sun shines on the plumage

Sometimes the Glossy has been seen on the foreshore. 

No one knows what sex "Flossy" is. We do know that "Flossy" is an immature bird so does not appear to have reached sexual maturity yet. In time its plumage should change and become more colorful with more of a red color showing. At the moment at first glance and particularly in poor light it can look a matt black and the bird often appears as a silhouette in photographs. The plumage, however, is remarkably colored and has an almost oil-like gloss quality akin to the crow family that when the light shine on them the feathers turn amazing colors. Hence that's where this species gets its name from.

 Glossy Ibis are rare visitors to the United Kingdom but their frequency has been steadily increasing. They are a widespread species and found on the continent in Europe, Africa, Asia and also in more recent times in the Americas. They are traditionally thought to be more inclined towards the equator but over time they have spread rapidly. Some parts of Spain, for example, have huge numbers of Glossy Ibis. I spoke to a Spanish bird expert from Andalucia at Goldcliff last year who could not help but laugh at how enthused I was about having one Glossy at Goldcliff, as he was more familiar with seeing flocks of six hundred birds at a time.

So why has "Flossy" chosen to stay at Goldcliff you may well ask? Well, one thing we know about Glossy's is that immature birds can be very nomadic and travel far and wide from where they fledged. It has been known for Spanish bred birds to fly all the way across the Atlantic as far as Barbados. The population in America is suspected to originate from birds flying from Africa to South America which have them moved up to North America.

Glossy Ibis like wetland habitats. the Ibis feeds on small invertebrates by wading in shallow water or on grassland probing the ground and shallows with its long sensitive beak. They prefer brackish salty wetlands, mangroves, and habitats with reeds and lagoons. Whilst we have not gone mangroves or swamps on the Newport Wetlands we have got our own equivalent, food rich estuaries, saltmarshes, reedbeds, waterlogged pastures and of course lagoons. The whole area must seem pretty attractive to a wandering Ibis and "Flossy" certainly appears to have liked it as it's now stayed for over a year.

"Flossys" behavior over the last year seems to follow the pattern of roosting on Priors Lagoon at Goldcliff and then it can travel throughout the Newport Wetlands reserve area and I believe on some occasions a little further beyond Uskmnouth.

Often seen on Priors lagoon where it has a preference to roost in the reed bed.

How long will it stay for? Now, this is a difficult one. There is some suspicion that "Flossy" may be the same bird that previously visited the Wetlands before 2019 so that may mean it has been here longer than we thought. It could be a totally different bird however no one really knows. Most of the Glossy's that have visited the UK have eventually flown off. To my knowledge, they have almost always been juvenile birds that soon after they reach sexual maturity have got the "breeding urge" and flown off to find some company. In 2014 at Frampton Marsh two Glossy Ibis built a nest and it looked as if they were going to start breeding but no eggs were laid and since then there has been no known breeders.

As time has passed the Glossy has become less shy and quite close views of this fantastic bird at a respectable distance can be made from the hides.

Glossy on the continent tend to gather in large breeding colonies that can include large numbers of birds. Perhaps though it's just a matter of time and one day two birds may decide to settle and make a go of it. It would be fantastic if that happened at Goldcliff Lagoons and "Flossy" could attract a mate to stay.

On the other side of the coin one day, the bird's hormones may start raging and it will have to follow its urges and leave Goldcliff for the continent. Until that time whatever happens let's wish "Flossy" the best of luck and enjoy having this wonderful "visitor" on the Gwent Levels.


  1. Blair, the NWL Visitor Centre sighting data show Glossy ibis sightings in 16 weeks in 2016 (January to April) and 35 weeks in 2019 (most weeks from January to December). Jeremy

    1. Thanks Jeremy that is really useful to know. So way back to 2016 we have a "Glossy" on the NWL. Cool. We just need to attract a mate for Flossy then :)

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