View from the Zoo: Sacred ibis

One of the sacred ibis at Flamingo Land.
One of the sacred ibis at Flamingo Land.

This week we will be letting you know a bit more about one of our more ‘sacred’ residents here at the zoo. As part of the bird show and our Aviary in the Lost River area we have a number of sacred ibis.

Ibis are wading birds which means they have long legs which allow them to ‘wade’ through shallow water and mud. They get their ‘sacred’ name because in Egypt the ibis represented the god Thoth, god of wisdom, knowledge and writing, and in Egyptian mythology it was considered the herald of the flood. Sadly the bird is now extinct throughout Egypt because of gradual acidification through swamp drainage and land reclamation. They can still be found in other northern African countries as well as zoos just like Flamingo 
Land.

African sacred ibis are black and white in colour and are able to jump and take off quickly should they spot a predator. They have a long beak which curves downwards which also allows them to retrieve their food in amongst mud and shallow water.

Local villagers appreciate them as they help to rid fish ponds of water snails that contain dangerous liver parasites.

They generally live in colonies which can reach up to 300 individuals and also share territory within trees and bushes with other species of bird such as spoonbills.

Their habitat generally consists of freshwater wetlands, salt pans, dams, mangroves, rivers in open forested areas.

When it comes to breeding both parents will attend to a clutch of two to four eggs for about three weeks. Once the eggs hatch they take turns feeding the nestlings. The young will leave the nest at 14-21 days old but continue to be fed until they grow flight feathers at about 35-48 days old.

Unfortunately breeding success is generally very low, with an average of 0.01 young fledged per nest. This shows the importance of breeding them successfully in 
captivity.

At Flamingo Land one of the isis is in the bird show. She can also be flown and fed by members of the public as part of our bird encounters experience.