Ibis (Northern Bald) / Geronticus eremita

Did you know...

The oldest ever recorded zoo ibis was a 37 years old male

The Northern bald ibis differs from other ibis species as it does not wade

Northern bald ibis were revered in Egypt and their image appears in hieroglyphics and tomb art. The Egyptians called them crested ibis or crested akhbirds.

The Northern bald ibis, Hermit ibis or Waldrapp ibis was once commonly found all over North Africa and Europe south of the Alps. It is now restricted to small wild populations in Morocco and Syria. These two populations are genetically distinct and behave differently, too. The Moroccan population lives in the same area all year round while the eastern population migrates south in the winter.

The ibis live in large flocks, foraging for insects and other small animals which make up much of their diet on steppe and fallow agricultural land near to their breeding sites. Unlike other ibises which nest in trees in wetlands, the Northern bald ibis breeds on undisturbed cliff ledges often in coastal regions or near rivers.

Although the plumage is similar male birds are generally larger than the females and have longer bills. Pairs bond for life following a courtship in which the male displays with his crest and calls to the female. Once the bond is established it is reinforced by mutual grooming.

Usually 2-4 eggs are laid in a nest constructed of twigs lined with straw or grass. The incubation period is 24-25 days and the chicks fledge 40-50 days after hatching. Both parents play a part in incubation and rearing of the chicks.

There is a captive population of some 850 plus birds in European Zoos in a managed breeding programme and this population is being used to provide young ibis for reintroduction to the wild. Wild populations also receive high levels of monitoring and protection.