African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)

African Sacred Ibis

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Threskiornithidae | [latin] Threskiornis aethiopicus | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] African Sacred Ibis | [FR] Ibis sacre | [DE] Heiliger Ibis | [ES] Ibis Sagrado | [NL] Heilige Ibis


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Threskiornis aethiopicus AF Africa south of the Sahara, Iraq


Threskiornis is a genus of , wading birds of the family Threskiornithidae. They occur in the warmer parts of the Old World in southern Asia, Australasia and sub-Saharan Africa. They are colonial breeders, which build a stick nest in a tree or bush and lay 2-4 eggs. They occur in marshy wetlands and feed on various fish, frogs, crustaceans and insects. Adult Threskiornis ibises are typically 75cm long and have white body plumage. The bald head, neck and legs are black. The bill is thick and curved. Sexes are similar, but juveniles have whiter necks duller plumage. The Straw-necked Ibis differs from the other species in having dark upperparts, and is some times placed in the separate genus Carphibis (Jameson, 1835)as Carphibis spinicollis.

Physical charateristics

An adult individual is 68 cm 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

Listen to the sound of African Sacred Ibis

[audio: Sacred Ibis.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 110 cm wingspan max.: 125 cm
size min.: 60 cm size max.: 85 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 29 days
fledging min.: 35 days fledging max.: 29 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Africa : widespread. Sub-Saharan Africa, southeastern Iraq, and formerly in Egypt


Subtropical as well as tropical, adapted to fairly wide range of mainly inland habitats by lakes and rivers and in cultivated areas. Breeding sites range from high trees to bare surface of rocky marine islands.


Nest is built most often in trees, especially flat-topped thorns; but on islands also in low scrub, under 1 m from ground, and on ground, among rocks; sometimes in rushes in swamps. Colonial; nests close but rarely touching. Nest: large pile of branches and sticks, lined grass, rushes, and leaves, and occasionally shells and coloured beads.
Clutch size 2-4, one brood. Incubation lasts 28-29 days and the young fledge after 35-40 days.

Feeding habits

Invertebrates mainly, including insects (particularly locusts and grasshoppers), spiders, annelids, crustaceans, and molluscs. Also frogs, reptiles, fish, young birds and eggs, carrion, and offal. Feeds during day mainly in flocks, mostly by wading in shallow wet areas, and occasionally on dry land close to water.

Video African Sacred Ibis


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Sacred Ibises have, escaped from captivity and been seen in the wild in Europe since the 19th century, eg in Italy, but this remained a rare event until about the 1970s when it became fashionable to breed free-flying groups of ibises in zoological gardens. This led to a regular flow of escapes, which in turn led to the establishment of breeding pairs in the wild, and breeding populations have now become established in Spain, Italy and France, as well as on the Canary Islands. Stray birds have also been reported in other countries.
African Sacred Ibis status Least Concern


Nomadic or migratory. Movements of several hundred kilometres to breed during rains; birds N of equator move northwards, those S of equator southwards, both returning at end of rains or early in dry season. Birds captured in Angola and Zambia had been ringed 1000-1500 to S in South Africa. Little information available on Iraqi population; present all year round, though not necessarily sedentary; small numbers winters in Iran. Stragglers recorded in Kuwait and N Yemen.

Distribution map

African Sacred Ibis distribution range map


Title Sacred Ibis: a new invasive species
in Europe
Author(s): Pierre Y

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