What the heck's this tropical bird doing in western Minnesota?

Whatcha doing, buddy?

Whatcha doing, buddy? Carol Bauer

The scarlet ibis has no business hanging out in western Minnesota.

But that's exactly where Carol Bauer, a wildlife photography lover from Graceville, spotted the tropical bird on Tuesday. Native to South America and the Caribbean, the dagger-beaked beauty was discovered eating bugs and bopping around trees near Johnson. 

"I was nervous it would be skittish and fly away," says Bauer, whose friends alerted her to the bird's surprise presence. "But it was in the same spot for about a half-hour and let me photograph it and walk directly under him. It did not seem nervous about people at all."

The bird attracted a crowd of onlookers, she adds, including one all the way from the Twin Cities. 

The non-migratory ibis didn't just wander into rural Minnesota, says Lori Naumann of the DNR. "The presence of one could only mean it escaped from a local zoo or game farm," she explains.

University of Minnesota ornithologist Sushma Reddy agrees. 

"Even if it did get blown off course by a storm, it would be unlikely to have traveled this far north," she says, noting that "vagrant birds" aren't uncommon in our state. "These are usually migratory birds from the west, north or even Asia; they usually get bird-watchers quite excited and there is a rush to see these accidental visitors."

Facebook sleuths checked with area zoos, Bauer says, but none of them reported a missing ibis. Located 80 miles southwest, Watertown, South Dakota's Bramble Park Zoo lists a scarlet ibis among its birds, though it tells us all its animals are accounted for.

So, if you're missing your scarlet ibis, bring some binoculars to Minnesota's western border -- it's apparently still hanging around. 

Here's a video clip from Thursday, courtesy of Bauer: