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Australian White Ibis

Australian White Ibis
Scanned image of medium format slide 
Australian Museum 
photographer: J. Fields
 
Introduction:

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.

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:

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.

Breeding Behaviours:

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.