A white Ibis with a crippled right leg lives in our neighborhood. She hops about on her good leg and drags her useless limb behind her. Like all Ibis, she pokes at the ground with her long curved bill foraging for food. Her bill is extremely sensitive to movement as she zeroes in on snails, lizards, crayfish and frogs.
Sometimes a flock of Ibis join her and they move from one lawn to another. She struggles to keep up. She watches the other ibis fearlessly cross the street while she waits, unsure. She seems on the brink of crossing. She hops out a few inches, hesitates, but then returns to the safety of the grass. I suspect an inconsiderate motorist is the reason for her fear and for the crippled leg.
One day I saw her fly away with a colony of Ibis. I couldn’t see her among the flutter of wings. Up there, she soared like any other ibis glistening white against a cloudless blue sky. I thought I’d never see her again, but in a few days she came back.
For almost six years she has returned to the same place by the side street. Perhaps she comes to mourn the loss of a mate since ibis are sometimes monogamous, or perhaps to mourn the loss of her leg. I worry about her. I wonder about her pain. Could I catch her? Could I help her? Could the leg be repaired?
My concern turns to relief when I see her foraging with another Ibis that has stayed behind. They move as one over the grass. When her newfound friend flies to a nearby pond, she joins him, flying with grace and precision. Together they probe the muddy bank with their long red bills searching for food.
Watching them together, I feel relief. Perhaps she has found her prince charming — the one who accepts and overlooks flaws. Perhaps they will mate and produce perfect young; sharing parenting responsibilities together, her small imperfection only an inconvenience in the greater scheme of life.
For a picture of the “real Inez,” and a picture book titled: “Inez Ibis Flies Again , the story of a courageous ibis who never gave up;” go to these links: