To loosely translate from Norwegian to English:
fri = free, lufts = air’s, liv = life
The English equivalent = Outdoor Life
The “Outside Life” (Friluftsliv) that I’ll explore in these columns is broad: Birds, Wildlife, the Badlands, Historic Sites, Outdoor Events, and more.
I’m no expert on this subject, but I’m constantly intrigued by North Dakota’s Friluftsliv. I rarely come home from a photographic journey without at least one photo that invites further exploration.
One of my many interests is birds in North Dakota. I’ve always been interested in birds, but until I made a serious effort to capture them photographically, I never realized the great diversity of sizes, shapes, colors and habitats around me.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGFD) has put together a checklist that: “includes 376 species of birds that may be seen in North Dakota.” (gf.nd.gov/node/840)
Armed with my NDGFD checklist, a few Sibley bird guides, binoculars and my ever-present digital camera, I entered the Friluftsliv to see how many of the 376 species I could capture on film. (Well, digital. Who uses film anymore?)
To make my photographic journey even more interesting, I have the “Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab” application on my laptop. This application not only helps me identify the birds I have photographed; it gives a short description of the bird and also logs the bird in my “List of Life.”
One of the first birds I photographed and put on my Merlin Life List was the “White-faced ibis.” Two features of this bird make it unique in the bird world: its distinctive bill and its iridescent plumage.
The best description I’ve seen of the ibis’s plumage is that it looks like a “fat rainbow.” If you look at the ibis from the right angle on a sunny day, it looks like it is covered with an oil sheen.
As distinctive as its plumage is the ibis’ long, curved bill. The ibis’s nostrils are located at the base of its bill allowing the bird to breathe as it scours the mud for crustaceans, small fish, and snails. Sensitive feelers in the beak allow the bird to identify its meal without seeing it.
There are 28 different species of ibis worldwide. The white-cheeked ibis is the most common in North Dakota. We know it as an interesting addition to our checklist, but we don’t give this strange bird the same credit it has received in the past. The ancient Egyptians revered the ibis and their deity, Thoth, is depicted with the body of a man and the head of an ibis. In ancient Egypt, the bird was used for many religious ceremonies. When it died, it was embalmed, and ibis mummies are still found in ibis-shaped figurines and earthenware jars. No species of ibis lives in modern Egypt.
The White-faced Ibis is just one of many fascinating bird species we enjoy in North Dakota. It really is one of the most unique.
Grab your checklist and head out into the wide-open spaces of North Dakota. With a little practice and a lot of patience, you’ll soon be putting together your own “life list” of these bird-dwellers of our state.
Doug Wurtz grew up near Ryder and graduated from Minot State University. His retirement activities include wildlife photography and serve as a certified interpretive guide for the State Historical Society of North Dakota. He is a past president of the North Dakota Archaeological Association. He is also a former board member of the Ryder Historical Society and Hiddenwood Old Settlers Association. Doug and his wife Linda live in Bismarck.