Scientific Name: Threskiornis aethiopicus
The sacred ibis was revered by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that the god Thoth, who symbolized wisdom and knowledge, came to earth in the form of an ibis.
The sacred ibis is pictured in ancient Egyptian murals, and mummified specimens have been found in many burial sites; however, because of extensive swamp drainage and reclamation of land, the sacred ibis is now extinct in Egypt.
STATUS: This species is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While no longer found in Egypt, the sacred ibis is common throughout its present range.
HABITAT: The sacred ibis lives in marshes, swamps, riverbanks, flooded farmlands and coastal lagoons in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Persian Gulf region. The species has been introduced in France, Italy, Spain and the southeastern part of the United States.
DIET: It is an opportunistic feeder. In addition to the fish, snails, frogs and aquatic insects which make up the majority of the ibis’s diet, these birds will also sometimes prey on the eggs and young of other bird species. They also are often found scavenging in rubbish dumps and occasionally scrounging meals in outdoor restaurants.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: The sacred ibis is a large bird, measuring 25 to 29 inches in length. It has long legs and a thin, down-curved bill which is sensitive to touch and used by the bird to probe for food in mud and underwater. White feathers cover most of the bird’s body, with black plumes on its rump. The scaly skin on the bald head, neck, bill, legs and partially-webbed feet is black. The average adult weighs about three pounds.
Unlike most other ibises, the sacred ibis is a very quiet bird. The only sounds it makes are low croaks while on its breeding grounds.
The sacred ibis nests colonially, often sharing roosting areas not only with its own species but also with storks, herons, spoonbills and cormorants. The male and female build an untidy platform nest out of sticks in a tree or bush. Both parents incubate the clutch of 2 to 5 eggs for about three weeks, and then take turns feeding the hatchlings. While the young leave the nest when they are 14 to 21 days old, their parents continue to feed them until they gain their flight feathers and leave the colony after about 35 to 48 days.