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Australian White Ibis Fact File

Threskiornis moluccus

Credit: Calistemon, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

1.4-2.5kg

(3.1-5.5lbs)

Length

65-75cm

(25.6-29.5in)

Lifespan

Wild 26 years

Captive 26 years

Diet

Carnivore

Invertebrates, Frogs

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The Australian white ibis has taken on a cult status in Australia's culture due to their presence in cities where they forage in bins. This has given rise to the nickname, 'bin chicken.

These animals are carnivores which primarily feed on invertebrates but also take small animals such as frogs and fish.

They will breed in large colonies. Males undertake an intricate courtship ritual to try and attract a female. The pair will then work together to raise their brood.

While they have been able to maintain a stable population due to the ongoing expansion of their range they are facing declines in their natural range.

Read on to learn more about these beautiful birds.

Appearance

What does the Australian white ibis look like?

The Australian white ibis features white feathers across the back and lower portion of the neck. At the end of the body is a section of lacy, black plumes. On the upper neck and across the head is black, un-feathered skin. Under the wing is a patch of bare skin which follows the wing bone. During the breeding season this will turn scarlet.

Their head may appear brown or grey due to staining from mud and swamp waters in which they forage.

The black coloration of the head continues on to the long, thin, black bill. This curves downwards as it protrudes from the head.

Their legs are colored dark grey with a smudge of red. These legs are elongated to help them wade through the water without their feathers becoming wet.

An average Australian white ibis will measure 65 to 75cm (25.6-29.5in) long and weigh 1.4-2.5kg (3.1-5.5lbs). Females tend to be smaller and have a shorter bill.

Diet

What does the Australian white ibis eat?


Australian white ibis are primarily carnivorous. They will feed on a range of aquatic and land-dwelling invertebrates. A favored food is crayfish or mussels which they will gain by digging with their long bill. Small animals such as frogs and fish are also taken.

These animals are well known for taking scraps from humans.

Large numbers of this species will gather in areas affected by locusts in plague conditions. They will gorge on the hordes of insects which are present.

Australian white ibis

Credit: Donald Hobern from Copenhagen, Denmark, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the Australian white ibis?

As their name suggests these birds are native to Australia but populations also breed in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

They are present across much of northern and eastern Australia. Since the 1950s their range has been gradually expanding in to Western Australia. These animals are not recorded on the island of Tasmania.

Occasional vagrants have been recorded from New Zealand.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Australian white ibis live in?

These animals make their home in forests, grasslands, wetlands and intertidal zones. They are often found near water including swamps and lagoons but can be found in dry habitats.

They are well known from urban areas where they will pick through bins to find food along with taking food from humans.

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Reproduction

How does the Australian white ibis produce its young?

Breeding typically takes place from August to April though there is some localized variation in this.


At the start of the breeding season the male Australian white ibis will take up a position in a large tree. He performs a noisy display with the aim of attracting a mate.


When a female arrives he will bow and offer the female a twig. If she grabs it a bond is formed and the pair will begin to preen one another.


They build a large nest from sticks.


Males and female will work together to incubate the eggs and raise the young. When they change over who is incubating they will bow to one another. Their clutch includes between 1 and 4 eggs.


The chicks spend the first 48 days of their life in the nest. At birth the young are born without feathers. As they grow they initially develop blackish-brown down before taking on the adult plumage.


Their nesting sites are regularly shared with the straw-necked ibis.


Some pairs will raise two broods in a season.

Behavior

What does the Australian white ibis do with its day?

These birds produce few vocalizations except for a deep grunt when settling to roost.

When in flight a group of Australian white ibis will form a distinctive V-shape formation.

They are often found living in groups. These include up to 50 members.

Australian white ibis

Credit: JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), CC BY-SA 3.0

<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Australian white ibis?

The population of this species is believed to be stable. This is possible as their overall range is expanding but in their native range they are decreasing in number.

In Australia this species is offered legal protection.

Quick facts

In Australia these birds enjoy an almost cult like status and has been give the nickname 'bin chicken' due to their habit of picking food from bins in urban areas.

They may also be known as the sacred ibis but this name is more commonly used for an African species.

Australian white ibis

Credit: Dominic Sherony, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

BirdLife International. 2016. Threskiornis moluccusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22697519A93618773. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22697519A93618773.en. Downloaded on 28 October 2021.

Birdlife.org.au. 2021. Australian White Ibis | BirdLife Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/australian-white-ibis> [Accessed 28 October 2021].

The Australian Museum. 2021. Australian White Ibis. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/australian-white-ibis/> [Accessed 28 October 2021].

Brisbane.qld.gov.au. 2021. Australian White Ibis. [online] Available at: <https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/clean-and-green/natural-environment-and-water/biodiversity-in-brisbane/wildlife-in-brisbane/living-with-wildlife/australian-white-ibis> [Accessed 28 October 2021].

Backyard Buddies. 2021. White Ibis. [online] Available at: <https://backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/white-ibis/> [Accessed 28 October 2021].

Birdssa.asn.au. 2021. Australian White Ibis – Birds SA. [online] Available at: <https://birdssa.asn.au/birddirectory/australian-white-ibis/> [Accessed 28 October 2021].

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