Information about the Bird African Sacred Ibis
The African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is a species of ibis. Its sister species is the Australian white ibis.
An adult individual is 68cm (27in) long with all-white body plumage apart from dark plumes on the rump. The bald head and neck, thick curved bill and legs are black. The white wings show a black rear border in flight. Sexes are similar, but juveniles have dirty white plumage, a smaller bill and some feathering on the neck.
This bird is usually silent, but occasionally makes some croaking noises, unlike its vocal relative, the hadada ibis.
A wading bird of the ibis family, Threskiornithidae, the sacred ibis breeds in Sub-Saharan Africa, southeastern Iraq, and formerly in Egypt, where it was venerated and often mummified as a symbol of the god Thoth. It was also introduced successfully to the British Isles. The African sacred ibis occurs in marshy wetlands and mud flats, both inland and on the coast. It will also visit cultivation and rubbish dumps.
The bird nests in tree colonies, often with other large wading birds such as herons. It builds a stick nest, often in a baobab tree and lays two or three eggs.
It feeds on various fish, frogs, small mammals, reptiles and smaller birds as well as insects. It may also probe into the soil with its long bill for invertebrates such as earthworms.
The African sacred ibis has been introduced into France, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States (south Florida).
The introduced and rapidly growing populations in southern Europe are seen as a potential problem, since these large predators can devastate breeding colonies of species such as terns. They also compete successfully for nest sites with cattle and little egrets. The adaptable ibises supplement their diet by feeding at rubbish tips, which helps them to survive the winter in these temperate regions.
The African sacred ibis is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Venerated and often mummified by Ancient Egyptians as a symbol of the god Thoth, the ibis was, according to Herodotus and Pliny the Elder, also invoked against incursions of winged serpents. Herodotus wrote:
In more mythical stories, it was also said that the flies that brought pestilence died immediately upon propitiatory sacrifices of this bird.
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