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Australian White Ibis

A Sacred or Australian White Ibis perched on a branch

Scientific Name: Threskiornis molucca

Size: 69 to 76cm

What does it look like?

The Australian White Ibis is identified by its almost entirely white body plumage and black head and neck. The head is featherless and its black bill is long and down-curved. During the breeding season the small patch of skin on the undersurface of the wing changes from dull pink to dark scarlet. Adult birds have a tuft of cream plumes on the base of the neck. Females differ from males in being slightly smaller, with shorter bills. Young birds are similar to adults. In flight, flocks will form distinctive V-shaped flight patterns.

Where is it found?

The Australian White Ibis is common and widespread in northern and eastern Australia, and an isolated region of south-western Australia, but is absent from Tasmania. 

What are its habitats & habits?

The Australian White Ibis can be observed in all but the driest habitats, frequenting swamps, lagoons and floodplains, as well as urban parks and gardens. 

Food consists of a wide variety, from both terrestrial and aquatic insects to human scraps. The most favoured food is crayfish and mussels, which are obtained by digging with their long bill. Mussels are opened by hammering them on a hard surface to reveal the soft body inside.

 The courtship ceremony of the Australian White Ibis is quite involved. The male secures a pairing territory on a branch of a tall tree in order to attract a female. Once the pair bond is cemented, the birds fly off to build a nest at another location. Australian White Ibis nest in large colonies, often with other the Straw-necked Ibis, T. spinicollis. Young are born naked and helpless. One or two broods may be reared in a year.

Interesting facts

Due to its ability to adapt to a wide range of human environments and a diversity of food scraps found in these areas, the Australian White Ibis has earned itself the unflattering nickname of ‘Bin Chicken’.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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