Animal Species:Australian White Ibis

Some Australian White Ibis populations have learnt to exploit artificial foods in urban environments and are becoming pests. However, although Australian White Ibises are becoming more common in some areas, their abundance is decreasing in their natural range.

Australian White Ibis in tree

J Fields © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Australian White Ibis

Alternative Name/s

Sacred Ibis

Identification

The Australian White Ibis is identified by its almost entirely white body plumage and black head and neck. The head is featherless and its black bill is long and down-curved. During the breeding season the small patch of skin on the under-surface of the wing changes from dull pink to dark scarlet. Adult birds have a tuft of cream plumes on the base of the neck. Females differ from males by being slightly smaller, with shorter bills. Young birds are similar to adults, but have the neck covered with black feathers. In flight, flocks of Australian White Ibis form distinctive V-shaped flight patterns. Another common name for this bird is Sacred Ibis, but this more appropriately refers to a closely related African species.

Size range

69 cm to 76 cm

Distribution

The Australian White Ibis is common and widespread in northern and eastern Australia, and both its range and abundance in western Australia is expanding, despite its absence from Western Australia prior to the 1950s. The species is absent from Tasmania.

Habitat

The Australian White Ibis can be observed in all but the driest habitats. Preferred habitats include swamps, lagoons, floodplains and grasslands, but it has also become a successful inhabitant of urban parks and gardens.

Feeding and Diet

The Australian White Ibis' range of food includes both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates and human scraps. The most favoured foods are crayfish and mussels, which the bird obtains by digging with its long bill. Mussels are opened by hammering them on a hard surface to reveal the soft body inside.

Communication

Drawn-out croaks.

Mating and reproduction

The male Australian White Ibis secures a pairing territory on a branch of a tall tree in order to attract a female. The courtship ceremony involves the male putting on a noisy display, as well as showing aggression towards other males. When a female arrives, the male attracts her by bowing from his branch. He then offers the female a twig, forging a bond when she grasps it and they begin to preen one another. Once the pair bond is cemented, the birds fly off to build a nest at another location. Australian White Ibis nest in large colonies, often with the Straw-necked Ibis, T. spinicollis. Young are born naked and helpless. One or two broods may be reared in a year.

Conservation Status

Although Australian White Ibises are becoming more common in some areas, their abundance is decreasing in their natural range.

Economic/social impacts

Some Australian White Ibis populations have learnt to exploit artificial foods in urban environments and are becoming pests.

Classification

Species:
molucca
Genus:
Threskiornis
Subfamily:
Threskiornithinae
Family:
Threskiornithidae
Order:
Ciconiiformes
Class:
Aves
Subphylum:
Vertebrata
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

References

  • Pringle, J.D. 1985. The Waterbirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson/National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.


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Tags BIBY, birds, water birds, Australian, White Ibis, Sacred,