National Geographic : 1967 Dec
Red+white=pink! Offspring of a white and a scarlet, a salmon-pink surprise shares a buttonwood perch with cattle egrets at Greynolds Park. Mr. Bundy, who took the pic ture last summer, reported that this hybrid mated and two chicks resulted. He now has sighted a total of five ibises of subtly varied shades, from pale pink to rich salmon. and Exploration and former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. "Ability to produce hybrids," said this world-renowned ornithologist, "is only one element for judgment. When this occurs con stantly where two types of birds are in con tact, it may be definitive. But hybrid offspring in the wild, produced casually between species obviously distinct, are a multitude and of many kinds. For example, they are common among various surface-feeding ducks, and are known between such diverse species as the white-throated sparrow and the junco. Dozens of other examples equally strange have been recorded. "With the ibises," Dr. Wetmore continued, "it must be recognized that in their South American rookeries where both are found nesting in company, no crossing has been reported. They act thus as distinct species regardless of their physical similarity. "In zoos there has been cross-mating be tween white and scarlet ibises, and a few other apparent hybrids are known. The situ ation at Greynolds rookery is unique in the wild, but this, too, is an artificial, man-created situation. The scarlet chicks, conditioned by the care of white foster parents, find oppor tunity when adult only for chance mating with one of their small number, but with 882 abundant choice among white partners. It will be interesting to observe whether scarlet and white birds, and their variously hued de scendants, continue to exist side by side, and whether the red character in the offspring persists or is finally submerged in the more abundant white." To the redoubtable Carter Bundy, the ques tion of whether scarlet and white are one species or two is of interest, but only academ ically. What he wants is to see the glorious scarlet bird firmly established in Florida. Needed: More Scarlet Ibis Eggs If a visitor is lucky this winter, he may see a scarlet ibis or two-indescribably beautiful against the blue sky of the Sunshine State. "But such a sight is all too rare," the man who started it all points out. "Scarlets appear to prefer scarlet mates; two found each other last spring at Grey nolds Park and raised young. But if no scar lets are available they'll settle for whites. "What we need is a few dozen more scarlet ibis eggs from one of the large South Ameri can rookeries. Then we will have enough scarlets so that they will mate with each other, breed true, and give our land a new and enduring touch of bright, tropical beauty." Singlehanded, Carter Bundy intends to try.