Interesting Facts about Ibis

Latin name:  Threskiornithinae
Kingdom:  Animals
A type:  Chordate
Type:  Birds
Group:  Ciconiiformes
Family:  Ibis
Subfamily:  Ibis
Height:  60-100 cm
Wing length:  30-50 cm
Wingspan:  60-100 cm
Weight:  1-4 kg

The ibis bird is small in size, weighing up to 4 kilograms and growing 60-100 centimeters. The ibis has a slightly elongated, barrel-shaped body, planted on long thin four-fingered webbed legs. Movable thin neck of medium length, head slightly tilted back. In some ibis, a crest of feathers or a rounded leathery growth is present on the crown of the head. The wings are long and wide, consisting of 11 main feathers, which allows the bird in flight to reach speeds of up to 65 kilometers per hour. The tail is short, barely noticeable. Unlike other Ciconiiformes, ibises lack goiter sac and powder plumage.


Ibis have one-color plumage. There are species that are fully white. There are ibises with black, gray, emerald, brown feather color. A striking representative of the ibis family is the red (scarlet) ibis. The body, neck, head, tail and legs of this bird are painted in burning red.

In some varieties of ibis, the main color is complemented by a contrasting shade. For example, in the black-faced ibis, the torso is colored lead and the neck is bright yellow; the white plumage of the body of a red-legged ibis contrasts with a bright red complexion; black-headed ibis is painted off-white, while the tail and neck are dark gray. Young ibis is characterized by a juicy, bright color of the pen. With each molt, the color of the feathers fades.


A distinctive feature of ibis is the beak. It is long, thin, curved down at the end. This part of the body is a hunting tool, therefore, by nature, the bird's beak is very powerful and strong. In some species of ibis, the beak tip is slightly expanded, which allows birds to more effectively hunt aquatic animals.

The birds plant a long beak in the muddy bottom and, digging it up, look for and catch prey. With the help of a long beak, they find food in crevices of stones and deep burrows. The tongue does not support in eating, as it is atrophied due to evolution.

Female and male: differences

Ibis lacks sexual dimorphism. Externally, representatives of both sexes differ from each other in size: males are larger than females by 200-400 grams.


A large family of ibis is found around the world, with the exception of the northern regions. These are thermophilic birds that choose the tropics and subtropics for life, with rare exceptions moderate latitudes. The largest number of ibises are found on the east coast of Africa, in the north-west of Latin America, Australia. With rare exceptions, ibis is found in Europe and Russia.


Ibis belongs to the group of near-water birds. Birds prefer to nest near water bodies, as they feed mainly on aquatic animals. For nesting birds choose an open area - forest edges, river valleys. Some species of ibis, such as warty ibis, are not attached to water bodies and equip their homes in dry places. They feed mainly on small vertebrates and plant foods. Ibis are found in the steppes and savannahs, rocky semi-deserts.

Ibis: Do they Migrate

Most species of ibis are migratory. Feathers living in North America fly to Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela in the winter. European birds migrate to Africa and Asia for the period of cold weather. Japanese birds fly over the summer to Australia. Other "southern" species lead a sedentary life, however, in search of food they travel through the range, moving away from the nesting site for thousands of kilometers.

What do they eat?

The ibis food consists of insects and small vertebrates. Birds hunt mollusks, crustaceans, larvae. Adult individuals sometimes regale themselves with larger prey - fish, eggs of small birds, frogs. Ground ibis catch lizards, mice and earthworms. If possible, they eat bugs, snails, slugs, spiders and locusts.

In hungry times, ibises do not disdain to eat carrion or the remnants of food of predatory animals.


bis are flocking birds. They live in colonies of 100-150 pairs. During nomadic bird families unite in a huge flock, which totals up to 1 million individuals. Birds fly together, in the places of recreation create the so-called "bird markets". Ibis are calm, peaceful birds. In their flocks take other birds, for example, spoonbills, cormorants, herons. All of them fly along the same route, and then they also return home together. Thanks to the powerful long wings, ibises fly quickly and well. In one day they cover a distance of several hundred kilometers.

Ibis leads a daily life. In the light hours, they hunt, slowly wandering around in shallow water and picking silt with their beaks in search of a crustacean or slug. Having hooked prey, the bird makes a sharp wave of its head, picking up food with its beak and swallowing whole. Ibis are careful birds. Sensing danger, they make a sharp flap of their wings and instantly rise into the air, hiding from the enemy in the crown of trees or shrubbery. At night, ibises climb into the nests and rest.


Most ibis species are monogamous. By the age of three, young birds become sexually mature. The natural instinct makes them look for a couple and start breeding. Partners stay together for life. Together they share the burdens of building a nest, hatching and raising offspring. The nesting period for northern birds begins in March and lasts until early May. Ibises living in Australia and South America breed from September to January during the rainy season.

Ibis make nests in trees. Some species equip homes in thickets of reeds, reeds or papyrus. The nest is a wide deep bowl, assembled from flexible branches and stems. "Houses" have close to each other - so more likely to respond in time to the appearance of a predator and fly away.

The ibis female lays 2-6 eggs. In size, they are twice as large as chicken. The color of the eggs of some ibis is cream, while others have light blue or gray-green eggs. The incubation period lasts three weeks. Female and male hatch offspring in turn. Chicks are born small and helpless. They still do not see, and the body is covered with a rare grayish or brown wet fluff. Parents feed the young with insect larvae. On the fortieth day, the chicks take to the wing, however, they leave their father’s house only by three months of life. In the fall, young growth unites in flocks and migrates with adult birds. The plumage of one-year-old birds differs from mature ibises: it is not so bright and contrast. Only in the second year of life, after the first molt, the color of the pen will become the same as in adult birds.

Ibis Types

There are 13 genera of ibises, which include 29 species of these birds. The most studied ibises are black-necked, bald, red-legged, chubate genera.

Sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)

Genus: Black-necked ibis

Appearance: a bird 75 centimeters high, weighing up to 2.5 kilograms. The plumage is white, the ends of the feathers, as well as the legs and beak are black with a purple tint. In older individuals, the neck and head are bare.

Distribution: The sacred ibis nests in the southeast of the African continent, in Australia and in Iraq. A couple of centuries ago, during a nomad, flew to the south-west of Russia (Kalmykia, Astrakhan region). 900-1000 pairs of ibis live in Europe.

Features: in ancient Egypt, the sacred ibis personified wisdom and intelligence. Ibis were worshiped, hunting for him was forbidden.

Black-headed ibis or Indian ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus)

Genus: Black-necked ibis

Appearance: a bird whose height does not exceed 90 centimeters, and weight is 1.3-1.5 kilograms. The body is painted off-white. The front of the neck and head are bare, the skin is black.

Distribution: black-headed ibis lives in southern Asia - in India, Thailand, Burma, Pakistan.

Features: the closest relatives of the black-headed ibis are the sacred and Moluccan ibises. All three species are migratory.

Warty ibis (Pseudibis papillosa)

Genus: pseudibis

Appearance: large bird with dark plumage. The wings and tail are painted dark blue with brown spots, the body is brown. On a black head there is a red leathery "hat". The iris is orange, the beak is gray-green. White spots on elytra.

Distribution: warty ibis nests in Hindustan.

Features: unlike other ibis species, the warty is not so attached to water bodies, as it mainly feeds on land animals. Seeking food in arid areas.

Giant ibis (Thaumatibis giganteа)

Genus: thaumatibis

Appearance: bird growth - 100 centimeters, length - 102-106 centimeters, weight - 3.8-4.2 kilograms. The body and tail are dark brown with a dirty green tint. Legs are red, beak is gray-yellow. The skin on the head and neck is grayish. The eyes are dark red.

Distribution: the habitat of the giant ibis is the border of Cambodia and Laos.

Features: giant ibis - the national symbol of Cambodia. The species is on the verge of extinction, is listed in the international Red Book.

Forest ibis (Geronticus eremita)

Genus: bald ibis

Appearance: plumage of forest ibis is black, purple, blue and green shades are present on the wings. Legs and beak pale pink. On the head is a crest of long thin feathers-threads.

Distribution: Previously, the species inhabited the Mediterranean and Europe. Now in the wild in these territories is not found. Wild ibis survived in Morocco, Turkey and Syria.

Features: forest ibis habits and habitat similar to the bald ibis. The species is distinguished by a crest on the head, which the bald ibis does not have. Although the forest ibis is not divided into subspecies, the population living in Morocco differs from the Turkish one with a longer, curved beak.

Red-footed ibis or Japanese ibis (Nipponia nippon)

Genus: red-legged ibis

Appearance: a white bird with pale pink and grayish tints. The face and legs are bright red, the beak is dark gray, red on the tip. The iris is yellow. The crest on the nape of the long feathers is off-white. In the mating season, the plumage becomes grayish. Adult birds weigh 1.5 kilograms, height - 80-90 centimeters.

Distribution: a couple of hundred years ago, the red-legged ibis nested in Central China, Japan and the Far East of Russia, however, as a result of hunting for ibises and deforestation, the ibis population in these territories almost disappeared. Today, few ibis families are found in Amur and Primorye, Korea, and China.

Features: according to estimates of ornithologists, 6-20 red-legged ibis remain in the world. This species is extremely rare.

White-necked ibis (Theristicus caudatus)

Genus: white-necked ibis

Appearance: bird, whose growth reaches 76 centimeters, and weight in the range of 1.5-2 kilograms. The short feathers on the neck and head are brown-yellow, the tuft on the crown is dark brown. The body is fawn, feathers on the border are whitish. Bill is dark gray, legs are dark red. Feathers are black around the eyes.

Distribution: white-necked ibis nests in northwestern Latin America. The most common species in Venezuela, Colombia and Guiana. The ibis is found in the moist forests of Brazil and Northern Argentina.

Features: the abundance of the species is estimated between 25 thousand and 1 million birds.

Red ibis (Eudocimus ruber)

Genus: Eudocimus

Appearance: red ibis is painted in fiery red color. The bird grows up to 70 centimeters in height and weighs 1.5 kilograms. Sexual dimorphism is absent.

Distribution: red ibis is distributed in the north of the South American continent, as well as on the island of Trinidad.

Features: red ibis lives in colonies. It settles mainly in water bodies. Monogamen.

Loaf (Plegadis falcinellus)

Genus: Loafs

Appearance: ibis is medium in size. The body length does not exceed 65 centimeters, body weight - 500-900 grams. The adult bird is colored dark brown with black streaks. Feathers in the sun are cast in bronze and green hues. Young animals have a white strip on their neck, which disappears with age.

Distribution: A large species of loafs is common in Eurasia, Africa, Australia and North America. In Russia, loaves settle along rivers, in particular, nest in the deltas of the Kuban, Volga, and Terek. For wintering, loafs fly to Africa and South Asia.

Features: the habitats of the loaf choose marshy shrubbery. Keep in packs of 50-70 pairs.

Spiky ibis (Lophotibis cristata)

Genus: Chubat Ibis

Appearance: poultry growth of 50-60 centimeters, weight - 480-980 grams. In the plumage there are brown, black and white colors. Black head with a green tint, a bared face of red color. Crested feathers black mixed with white. Beak is gray-yellow.

Distribution: Chubat ibis lives in Madagascar.

Features: Chubat ibis leads a sedentary lifestyle. Lives in packs near ponds. The breeding season falls on the rainy season - from September to January.

Natural enemies of ibis

Adult ibis do not have as many enemies as younger ibis. If nests are located on the ground, then foxes, wild boars, hyenas and raccoons encroach on eggs and chicks. Rats and ferrets prey on newly hatched cubs. True, this rarely happens, as adult ibis carefully guard the brood and, if necessary, repel the attacks of predators. Young ibis are hunted by birds of prey. Hawks, eagles and kites do not risk communicating with adult ibis, paying all their attention to young birds who are just learning to fly and who still do not know how to defend themselves.

The main enemy of the ibis is man. Agricultural activity, drainage of water bodies, deforestation, hunting - these factors have led to a serious reduction in the number of ibises. Most of the species of the family are on the verge of extinction. About 10 thousand years ago, the species of the flightless bird Xenicibis xympithecus disappeared from the face of the earth as a result of uncontrolled human hunting.

Ibis in the culture of Egypt

The ancient Egyptians revered ibis. The inhabitants of Egypt invariably depicted the God of wisdom and justice Jehuti (Thoth) with the head of an ibis. In ancient times, ibises lived throughout Egypt. Every year, the places of the nomadic birds chose the valleys of the Nile River. The ibis lived in the cities, freely pacing the streets and not being afraid of people. Dead birds were embalmed, some were buried with their owners. Archaeologists have found the mummified remains of ibis in the temple of Thoth, as well as numerous images of birds on the walls.

Scientists believe that the Egyptians worshiped the so-called "sacred ibis" (by the name of the species), but there is an opinion that in ancient times another species of birds nested in Egypt - the forest ibis, which was the symbol of the country. Later, the forest ibis was replaced by birds with white plumage and a black head, which were called "sacred". Today in Egypt, ibises are extremely rare, but in the south-east of Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania), the ibis population is plentiful.

Interesting Facts

  1. In the legend of Noah's ark, the ibis bird is mentioned, which, after the flood, led Noah to the upper Euphrates, where Noah settled with his family.
  2. The oldest ibis is 60 million years old.
  3. The burning-red color of the plumage in red ibises is explained by the fact that the carapace of crayfish eaten by birds contains the coloring pigment carotene.
  4. The red-footed or Japanese ibis is the rarest bird species on earth. The population is 8-11 birds
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