Malagasy Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis bernieri)

Malagasy Sacred Ibis

[order] CICONIIFORMES | [family] Threskiornithidae | [latin] Threskiornis bernieri | [authority] Bonaparte, 1855 | [UK] Malagasy Sacred Ibis | [FR] Ibis malgache | [DE] Bernieri Heiliger Ibis | [ES] Ibis Sagrado bernieri | [NL] Maleisische Heilige Ibis


Monotypic species


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

Unmistakeable large black and white ibis. Bare parts – bill, head, neck and legs – black. Primaries and secondaries tipped black, remainder white, although some birds have completely white primaries and secondaries

wingspan min.: 112 cm wingspan max.: 124 cm
size min.: 65 cm size max.: 89 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Africa : Madagascar, Aldabra. Two races are known: T .b. bernieri, found in the saline coastal zone and inland fresh water zone of western Madagascar (fewer than 2,500 and possibly no more than 2,000 mature individuals and declining), and T. b. abbotti on Aldabra, Seychelles (300-750 individuals), giving a total population of 2,300-3,250 individuals.


The species is believed to be ecologically more restricted than its African counterpart, being largely confined to lowland habitats in saline and brackish coastal zones, mainly mudflats, estuaries, mangroves and shallow brackish coastal lakes. During 2005 and 2006, 82.8% of birds surveyed and 69.2% of occupied sites surveyed or known from the literature were within 2 km of the coastline. There are also observations from inland rice fields and freshwater lakes within forested areas, such as the Manambolomaty complex. It breeds near to its foraging grounds9 and roosts on islets or in trees in the same area.


The clutch of two is laid in a small twig nest placed in a tree. It may also nest on the ground

Feeding habits

It feeds on worms, small crustaceans, snails, insects, spiders and various organic materials. It will sometimes take small vertebrates including frogs, reptiles and young birds.


This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small population which is declining owing largely to unsustainable harvesting of its eggs, disturbance of nesting sites and the degradation of wetland habitats in Madagascar. Declines are predicted to continue into the future.
Over 70% of the species’s population in Madagascar resides outside protected areas. It is threatened in particular by the collection of eggs, trapping of adults11 and taking of nestlings for food with drastic declines observed over widespread areas. It is fearless whilst nesting and roosting, making it an easy target for hunters. Existing legislation on hunting is weak and ineffective. The species is also threatened by habitat loss and degradation, with important habitats affected by pollution, sedimentation and the encroachment of alluvial sands. Increased sedimentation results from increases in soil erosion caused by slash and burn cultivation, and these effects are most prevalent in southern Madagascar where the species’s population is low. In addition, mangroves are threatened with destruction for charcoal production. It is possible that the species is in competition for food with egret species, such as the Dimorphic Egret Egretta dimorpha.
Malagasy Sacred Ibis status Endangered


This species is sedentary, showing no evidence of either dispersal or migration

Distribution map

Malagasy Sacred Ibis distribution range map

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