Research project: Ecology of Australian White Ibis


Start date:
Australian White Ibis with numbered wing tags

Australian White Ibis with numbered wing tags
Photographer: Richard Major © Richard Major

Museum investigators

External investigators

  • John Martin, University of Wollongong and Australian Museum
  • Kristine French, University of Wollongong

Funded by

  • W.V. Scott Charitable Trust, New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), WSN Environmental Solutions Australia, Centennial Park Trust, Australian Museum


The aim of this project is to understand the movements, habitat use and population dynamics of the Australian White Ibis in the face of overwhelming transformation of its natural environment. "Managed" as a pest in many urban situations, this native species has failed to breed during the last decade in its natural homeland in the wetlands of the Murray Darling Basin. With increasing appeals for Ibis to be culled in urban refugia, there is an urgent need for community education underpinned by sound scientific research. This project addresses the key research questions required to promote the preservation of this species.

We have been monitoring the main Ibis populations in the Sydney region and investigating movements by colour-banding, wing-tagging and radio-tracking a sample of individuals. More than 80 individuals have been radio-tracked and more than 400 individuals monitored by wing tags and leg bands. We have made over 5,000 observation records of marked birds, enabling us to make a comprehensive assessment of their behaviour in urban areas at breeding colonies, parks and land-fill sites.

Individual Australian White Ibis were observed to make each-way foraging trips of 35 km and multiple localised movements of up to 58 km daily, and to visit up to 14 different sites across the region over a 12 month period. These observations spanning the Sydney region demonstrate the interconnectedness of the population, both daily and seasonally. Over the last three years the Ibis population of the Sydney region has ranged between 2,200 and 9,000 birds, with the highest numbers coinciding with an influx of birds during the breeding season. Our research demonstrates that the Sydney "population" (and probably birds over a much larger area) needs to be considered as a whole.

Dr Richard Major , Principal Research Scientist
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