Thursday, 5 November 2015

Birding in Australia: The Ibises of Australia...

While birding trip in Australia, Ibis were the birds that I saw common, most of the times purposefully flying overhead to some distant place. There are three Ibis in Australia
1. Glossy Ibis
2. Australasian Ibis
3. Straw-necked Ibis

Okay let’s get some facts out of the way before we see the ibis of Australia. Firstly India too have three ibis and one of them is common to Australia - that’s the Glossy Ibis. Before that Ibises are a group of long-legged wader birds. They all have long, down-curved bills and usually feed as a group, probing mud for food items. Most species nest in trees, often with spoonbills or herons. There are total of 28 Ibis as of now and two extinct species.
The next fun fact is that the African sacred ibis was an object of religious veneration in ancient Egypt. In town of Hermopolis, Ibises were specifically reared for sacrificial purposes and archaeologists have found the mummies of one and a half million ibises and hundreds of thousands of falcons.
It may come as a surprise to many but the northern bald ibis is likely to be the first birds off the Noah Ark as a symbol of fertility and a lingering religious sentiment in Turkey helped the colonies there to survive long after the demise of the species in Europe.
The mascot of University of Miami is an American White Ibis.
Starting with the Australian Ibises.

1. Glossy Ibis: Also known as Black Curlew, the Glossy Ibis is the most common of all the Ibis in the world. Infact they inhabit the world, scattered in the warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Atlantic and the Caribbean regions of Americans. It is thought to have originated in the Old World and spread
Glossy Ibis in breeding plumage
naturally from Africa to North America in the 19th century. The species are migratory.Unfortunately this is also one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies. These Ibis are threatened by wetland habitat degradation, loss through drainage, increased salinity, ground water extraction and invasion by exotic plants.
Glossy Ibis
The birds are brownish in the breeding plumage and glossy black in the non-breeding season. The Glossy Ibis feed in very shallow waters and show a preference for marshes at the margins of lakes and rivers - but also can be around lagoons, flood plains swamps, reserviors sewage ponds etc.

The diet varies according to season and is dependent on what is available. Prey includes insects, dragonflies, larval insects leeches, mollusks and occasionally fish, amphibians, lizards, small snakes and nestling birds.

2. Australian White Ibis: Well this was the most common Ibis that I encountered in Australia - almost entire East-coast I traveled expect of the very south. Historically I was told that the bird was rare in
Australian White Ibis in a park

Australian White Ibis
the urban areas but has done so from 1970 onwards. There is a strong debate whether to consider it a pest of vulnerable species. Populations unfortunately has disappeared from natural breeding ground such as Macquarie Marshes in North-western Wales. Despite this they have been culled in parts of Sydney due to their smell and intrusive nature. This behavior of man, where we find the smell not upto our sensibilities or poop on cars a problem and where he feels that he is the 'master of all' will continue our conflict with nature. This is also a sister species to the sacred ibis of Africa and Black-headed ibis of Asia (Including India).  

3. Straw-necked Ibis: This bird too is found in most of Australia, New Guinea and parts of Indonesia. The bird is so named as the males have distinctive straw like feathers on their necks. 
Straw-necked Ibis
These are fairly large birds that are around 60-75 cm. Males have longer bills. The adaptation of Straw-necked Ibis has been less than the Australian White Ibis so is seen lesser. I did have sightings, but regretfully I waited for perfect moment and missed even record shots baring the ones of this Ibis in flight around Melbourne. So I am sorry for no pictures - you will have to go online to search for some of this bird.

The birds are extremely nomadic and are constantly on the move in search of suitable habitats that they are getting lesser and lesser these days. 

They say the birds are the barometer of the environment we live in. They are finding more and more difficult to survive the human onslaught. Teach everyone to respect mother Nature. May you always hear the bird song...

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