Sacred Ibis

Sacred Ibis



COMMON NAME: sacred ibis
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
ORDER: Ciconiiformes
FAMILY: Threskiornithidae
GENUS SPECIES: Threskiornis (religious bird) aethiopicus (belonging to Ethiopia)


DESCRIPTION: The sacred ibis is mostly white with a black head and neck and some black plumes in the tail. It has a long, slender, down-curved, black bill. The legs are long with partially webbed feet.
SIZE: Approximately 75 cm (30 in.); wingspan 30 cm (1ft.)
WEIGHT: Approximately 1.35 kg (3 lb.)
DIET: Feeds on small animals, vertebrates, and invertebrates; including grasshoppers, locusts, insects and insect-larvae, amphibians, and other small aquatic animals.
INCUBATION: 28-29 days
CLUTCH SIZE 3-5 eggs
SEXUAL MATURITY: Approximately 4-5 years
LIFE SPAN: Up to 20 years
RANGE: Africa south of the Sahara and Madagascar
HABITAT: Inhabits marshes and shores
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Appendix III
USFWS Not listed


1. Sacred ibis live in large colonies near waterways throughout Africa.
2. Ibises have curved, slender bills that they use to probe into shallow water, mud or grass when foraging.
3. This is a gregarious bird, living, traveling, and breeding in flocks. In flight, ibises form diagonal lines or v-formations. This formation decreases wind resistance for trailing birds. When the leader of the pack tires, it falls to the back of the formation and another ibis takes its place at the front.
4. Ibises are rather quiet birds, only grunting or a croaking on breeding grounds.
5. In ancient Egyptian societies, the sacred ibis was worshipped as the god Thoth and was supposed to preserve the country from plagues and serpents. The birds were often mummified and then buried with pharaohs.
6. Both the male and female take turns in guarding the nest site until the chicks are large enough to defend themselves. In addition, both parents help feed the chicks.
7. Ibises are an ancient species with fossil records going back 60 million years.


The sacred ibis, so important in ancient Egyptian culture, is now extinct in Egypt. Habitat destruction, poaching, and insecticide use such as DDT have all caused the decline of several ibis species.

These birds are not only scavengers, seen around rubbish dumps or sewage works, but they also move around croplands helping egrets and others to rid the area of insect pests. Its adaptability to several food sources ensures its success as a species.

Because of their role in helping to control crop pests, they are very valuable to farmers. However, agricultural pesticides usage has endangered the birds in several locations.


Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, Dorst: Blandford Press, 1981.

Perrins, C. Birds: Their Life, their Ways, their World. New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1979.

Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno.