White ibis skeleton!

I can't express how insanely grateful I am to of found a white ibis (Eudocimus albus) skeleton.
This post will have more photos than those uploaded in my observation. Because white ibis are MBTA protected, I wasn't able to collect it, but I was able to do a set up sufficiently similar to what I do at home to photograph the skeletal elements to try and capture their measurements and morphological features.

I'll be more than happy to define all the terms I use, and correct any I might have misused.

Coracoid, ~4.4, 4.5 cm at longest point.
Ventral veiw.


Furcula (wishbone).

Humerus, ~10 cm.
Left humerus, posterior view.

Left humerus anterior view, right humerus posterior view.

~8.4 cm, 8.8 cm including anterior-most part of sternum, the manubrium.
Ventral view.

Dorsal view.

Emphasis on pneumatization

Lateral view, with coracoids, scapulas, humerus, and wishbone still articulated.

Emphasis on still articulated sternal ribs.

About two feet away, I found the pelvis and some vertebra, and about half a foot from there, the tarsometatarsus, and a few inches away from that the tibiotarsus.

Pelvis, ~8.6 cm.
Dorsal view.

Lateral view.

With tarsometatarsus and vertebra.
Ventral view.

Ventral, with focus on pubis.

Dorsal view.

Lateral view.

Tarsometatarsus (~6.1 cm, posterior view) and vertebra.

Tibiotarsus, ~11.5 cm.

Lateral views.

Emphasis on pronounced outer cnemial crest.

Emphasis on distal end.

And that's that! The associated observation has some more photos, including feathers, but many are the same.

Like how I can't properly express how grateful I was so find this, I also can't properly articulate how humbled I was. I spend hours going through observations of bird bones on iNaturalist, using hundreds of photographs and illustrations for reference from books both online and physical, museum and college collection databases, figures from scientific papers, shared photos from taxidermists, curators and collectors, anything I can get my hands on. I have a decent avian bone collection, consisting of countless Muscovy ducks, several chickens, a couple of feral pigeons, a collared dove, a monk parakeet, European starling, turkey and peacock.

And even with all of that, I was still tripping up and confused. I changed my ID 4 times, back and fourth between shorebirds and white ibis. Some specific features threw me, like the very strong transverse processes on the immediately post-acetabular vertebra (circled) that I am familiar with in shorebirds (comparison is a Glaucous Gull from https://virtual.imnh.iri.isu.edu/Osteo/View/Glaucous_Gull/664), but in general I just felt clueless and bumbling.

The most important thing I think I learned that day wasn't any specifics about white ibis or great blue heron skeletal structure (more on the heron later, maybe tomorrow), of which I learned a great deal, but that I am still vastly ignorant. Every bird in my skeletal collection was found and cleaned by me or me and my sister, with the exception of the turkey, which I bought because I was having difficulties grasping their bones. It's incomplete, I don't have complete turkey skeleton money, but it has helped insurmountably. And the fact that the white ibis bones have also helped me understand so much, far more comprehensively than Olsen's Osteology for the Archaeologist or the Smithsonian's photographs ever could, was a rude awakening as to how stunted I am by not having access to physical references. Illustrations and pictures are helpful, but no substitute for the real thing. The ibis skeleton just felt so foreign, even though I've seen pictures and illustrations of them and even IDed some before.

There's obviously no easy solution to this, there's no way I could legally argue getting a collection permit for these things and the only museum that would have those reference materials near me is about 7 hours away by car. But I can hope to keep exploring and encountering new incredible finds. Studying avian osteology without many ways to ascertain physical bones to study sure isn't easy, but fortunately I like a challenge.

(In other news of personal osteological break throughs, I have finally found a photographic reference on an aningha pelvis. I'm sure a physical one would still blow my mind, but after only seeing illustrations for years it is still super impressive to see an actual photo.)

Posted by lizardking lizardking, June 23, 2020 03:18


Photos / Sounds


White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)




June 21, 2020 11:50 AM EDT


This is an awesome story!

Posted by beartracker over 1 year ago (Flag)

I agree -- what a great journal entry. Thanks for sharing this!

Posted by sambiology over 1 year ago (Flag)


Posted by bug_girl over 1 year ago (Flag)

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