Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus)

Black-headed Ibis

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Threskiornithidae | [latin] Threskiornis melanocephalus | [authority] Latham, 1790 | [UK] Black-headed Ibis | [FR] Ibis a tete noire | [DE] Schwarzhalsibis | [ES] Ibis oriental | [NL] Indische Witte Ibis


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Threskiornis melanocephalus OR India, Southeast Asia


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

Adults are typically 75 cm long and white-plumaged, with some greyer areas on the wings. The bald head, the neck and legs are black. The thick down curved bill is dusky yellow.In breeding,plumage some slaty grey on scapulars and in wings and ornamental plumes at base of the neck. Sexes are similar, but juveniles have whiter necks and a black bill.

Listen to the sound of Black-headed Ibis

[audio: Ibis.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 65 cm size max.: 76 cm
incubation min.: 23 days incubation max.: 25 days
fledging min.: 36 days fledging max.: 44 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


Oriental Region : India, Southeast Asia. Threskiornis melanocephalus occurs in Japan (scarce non-breeding visitor), mainland China (probably breeds in Heilongjiang, but this is not confirmed; non-breeding visitors are rare along the east and south coasts, occasionally inland to Sichuan and Yunnan), Hong Kong (China) (regular winter visitor in small numbers with occasional summer records), Pakistan (scarce resident, principally in the Indus delta region), Nepal (frequent resident and summer visitor to the south-east), India (widespread and locally common in the west, scarce in the east; possibly increasing locally due to spread of man-made wetlands), Sri Lanka (common resident in the lowlands, particularly the dry zone), Bangladesh (local visitor to coastal regions and the north-east), Philippines (rare non-breeding visitor to the south), Myanmar (uncommon but widespread non-breeding visitor, 730 counted in 1991), Thailand (formerly common resident, now uncommon winter visitor), Laos (only one record, a single bird prior to 1950), Vietnam (previously abundant breeder, now a few large colonies remaining and still locally common, Cambodia (fairly common resident in early 1960s; now scarce and local with small numbers breeding around Tonle Sap), Peninsular Malaysia (formerly occurred and probably bred in the west, but few recent records), Indonesia (scarce non-breeding visitor to Sumatra and north Borneo, possibly breeding in Sumatra with c.2,000 birds estimated, numerous breeding colonies in Java early in twentieth century, but now local and declining.


It inhabits freshwater marshes, lakes, rivers, flooded grasslands, paddy fields, tidal creeks, mudflats, saltmarshes and coastal lagoons, usually in extreme lowlands, but occasionally up to 950 m, tending to be nomadic in response to water levels and feeding conditions.


Colonial nester together with other Ciconiiformes and often Cormorants. It builds an unlined cup shaped stick nest in a tree usually over water and lays 2-4 eggs. The eggs are incubated for about 3 weeks, after which the young fledge after another 7 weeks. This species is highly suspect to predation by crows, man and raptors.

Feeding habits

It feeds on various fish, frogs and other water creatures, as well as on insects. It walks about actively on marshy land probing with its bill into soft mud and often feeds in shallow water with its head momentarily submerged.

Video Black-headed Ibis


copyright: J. del Hoyo


In common with most large wetland species in Asia, this species is undergoing a population reduction. It faces the full gambit of threats, from hunting and disturbance at breeding colonies to drainage and conversion of foraging habitats to agriculture. It consequently qualifies as Near Threatened.
It is vulnerable to drainage, disturbance, pollution, agricultural conversion, hunting and collection of eggs and nestlings from colonies. A combination of these factors has probably caused the decline.
Black-headed Ibis status Near Threatened


Throughout Indian subcontinent, sedentary, with frequent nomadic movements related to water conditions; population of E China migrates in winter to SE China, occasionally to Taiwan. Rare winter visitor to Japan, with 77 records between 1874 and 1985; likewise rare S to Philippines. Commonly flies in single file or V-formation

Distribution map

Black-headed Ibis distribution range map

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