We are so thankful for sunny warm autumn days again with clear blue skies, at least for now. However, our birding expeditions have been almost fruitless due to washed out and flooded tracks and the absence of birds, due to the seasonal change and the effect of the rain on bird habitats. On my recent walk in my local nature reserve, the only bird I saw to photograph was our Australian White Ibis. These Ibis were resting and washing in the creek at low tide. I also managed to get a flyover shot against the blue sky.

The Aussie White Ibis is known locally as the bin chicken due to its habit in recent years of invading Sydney’s suburban garbage bins and making a mess. Birds are very clever and can figure out over time ways of accessing closed bins, and then pass the technique onto other birds. They have even learned to nest in palm trees over busy highways.

This weeks post will feature the three species of Ibis found here in Australia, one of which can be found in many parts of the world due to its migratory habit.

1. Australian White Ibis:

This bird is endemic to Australia and is more pied than white. It has been a bird sacred to our indigenous inhabitants, and was also very similar to the Sacred Ibis in Africa, which in ancient Egypt was believed to be a god. This bird, similar to all Ibis is normally a wetland dweller, poking its long beak deep into moist soils and grasses to retrieve insects and crayfish, as well as anything small they can eat. As their food areas decline they have adapted to human habitats for alternate food supplies. They are mainly found on river banks, beside swamps and on wetlands after recent rain. During mating season the red under-wing primary wing strip turns from pale red to bright crimson, and they develop a red patch behind their heads, as seen below.

Here is a lovely flock shot in flight.

The juvenile Ibis has brown upper wing and a brown mottled head and neck which gradually changes black as it matures. Also the tail plumage has not developed in the immature.

They develop straw like hackles on their neck as they mature, similar to the Straw-necked Ibis.

Ibis, Spoonbill and Egret tend to to nest together for security, often high in trees by rivers and creeks of fresh water. They build large nests and can often be seen flying back and forth during nesting season.

White Ibis nesting together

Similar to most water birds their hungry youngsters use the humble head bobbing and constant: “Dad, I’m still hungry !” call as it follows the parent around, who trying to escape its endless requests. The sound has been removed due to excess wind noise.

Begging action of young Ibis

Similar to other flock birds they also roost together. Returning to their roosting spot, usually a safe area where other Ibis will also return to to spend the night.

The Aussie White Ibis is featured in the 2nd Edition of my book What Birds Teach Us. This bird is used to depict the value if finding support when it is needed in life. All species of Ibis know well the value flock support and the security it ensures.

2. Straw-necked Ibis:

The Straw-necked Ibis is found throughout Australia and its islands and also in Indonesia and New Guinea. It is sometimes found grazing alongside its white cousin, since they favour similar wetland conditions, however they are more human shy than the White and tend to be present in flocks inland away from the coast and west of the ranges. They are distinctly different with their large straw-like preponderance from their neck and their beautiful iridescent coloration on their primary plumage.

Straw-necked feeding alongside Australian White Ibis.

They are beautiful in full sunlight as you can see.

One of the most remarkable sights is to see these birds organize their flight formation before they fly off to a different location. These birds are more nomadic than the White Ibis which tend to stay in an area. The Straw-necked flock will spiral up and spend several minutes in what appears to be a turmoil of birds as they sort out who will lead and what flight order they will assume as they fly in formation to conserve energy and assist the younger birds.

The juvenile and immature birds have similar features to the White Ibis, with patchy brownish head and wing coloring and much reduced iridescence on upper wings. The bird is also smaller as seen in family below.

Juvenile Ibis between two adults

These birds form quite large flocks which stay together and breed together throughout their lives.

They are a beautiful sight when the whole flock is flying, but can be difficult to photograph as they fly very high on the thermals, though here is some lower flight shots.

3. Glossy Ibis:

The Glossy Ibis is the most nomadic of the three and found in many countries of the world. Similar to the Straw-necked cousin, it has most of its primary feathers iridescent and able to change colors in different angles of sunlight. These birds are also the shiest of the Ibis and will usually not tolerate close human contact, taking flight at the sight of an approaching human. This is also the more rarely seen Ibis, and it is always a bonus when they are sighted.

Glossy Ibis foraging alone in a secluded part of Olympic Park, Sydney.

The immature and juvenile lack the rufous tan neck colour and have white flecks in their neck and head plumage.

immature Glossy

Unlike the other two species these Ibis prefer to forage wading in the water shallows, and will often lower their head in the water.

They always look beautiful in flight. They are also often found mingling and preening alongside other species of Ibis and waterbirds.

The Glossy Ibis appears in the 1st Edition of my book What Birds Teach Us, being replaced by the White Ibis in the second, since the Glossy is not peculiar to our country.

Glossy Ibis in 1st Edition

Have a most enjoyable week birding and keep warm and dry. If this is your first visit to my blog and website Welcome! Please feel free to check out my pages on birding and tips for those beginning to make birdwatching (birding) a healthy hobby. Check out my 2 books which make great gifts to family members and friends who enjoy birds. Click below to check them out. You can order here online, posted free to your address, Australia or overseas.

Ibis are essentially a flock bird that rely on one another for safety, security and survival , sharing life together. One of the great privileges we have as humans is to share our lives with our community flock. We have the potential each day, and each time we pass or come in contact with another, to influence and encourage their lives for good, aiming to have a positive influence rather than a negative one. In my book Flight of a Fledgling I include many ways we can contribute to doing this and make a difference. The personal spin off is that a positive, joyful, friendly and peaceful attitude promotes good health. It also assists in maintaining ones immune system, lowers blood pressure and prevents depression. It aids longevity. The act of laughing and smiling frequently has an infectiously positive affect on those who see and hear us, endearing us to them, so that others will be attracted to and want to spend time with us. One example is pictured below:

People feel valued, respected and accepted when we smile and notice them. Especially if they are a stranger to us and we take the initiative to engage and say Hello or G’day ! if you are an Aussie with possibly the added How-ya-goin’-mate ? If you feel uncomfortable with this just smile. My experience is that people seldom forget meeting you for the first time, even it is just a brief passing encounter after many months. Your enthusiasm and input to a persons life in even the most brief encounter is never forgotten, and will subconsciously continue to encourage and have a positive influence in their life.

Borrowed from Peanuts.com

We do our very best for others when we listen and empathize with them rather than unloading our stuff on them. Most people are secretly craving a caring listening ear, someone who will appreciate them in their uniqueness, and is able to encourage them in who they are and what they doing in their life. This is especially helpful to people who have low self confidence, a poor sense of self worth, a sense of failure or suffering grief from a significant loss in their life. Your kindness may help save their life and help them navigate their life through a difficult time.

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! – Hebrews 13:2

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ – Matthew 25:34-40 (NLT)


  1. Hello Ashley,
    good to see that you have featured these birds. The bin chicken is a bit harsh, seeing that humans made it easy for them.
    We see Glossy from time to time, but sometimes it may be a year or more between sigthings.
    As a young kid we used to think Ibis Rookeries were just about the smelliest noisiest play about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks David, we also only see Glossies from time to time, and predominantly at one place when they are there, but always far away from decent photo moments. We only see them here in family flocks unlike the other two, and yes a visit to a roost in summer is a very smelly affair with much noise and small. It is interesting watching them fly in and move each other to find their position as they squabble at times.


  2. Your country’s Ibis are beautiful, Ashley. I love this unique looking bird, they are very interesting to watch their feeding. We have only the Glossy Ibis. Our White Ibis has a coral-colored beak and white head, your Austrailian White Ibis looks very close to our Wood Stork. Love seeing birds’ differences around the world!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the interesting post Ashley. I have seen plenty of the white ibis but have not yet laid on eyes on the other two. These birds get such a bad rap. We don’t get ibis here in Tassie but I remember finding a small spot of reserve next to a busy highway on the Gold Coast many years ago and there were lots of the white ibis nesting there, so I was able to see eggs in nests and young ones getting fed, it was fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Deborah, yes we have had a week of beautiful classic autumn days so we went early yesterday for a birding date to a secluded forest in the highlands where we were able to walk alone, it was a lovely time. Tomorrow a week of more rain ensures, but today is lovely also so I hung the washing out early. The Glossy Ibis are beautiful in direct sunlight, hope you get to see them eventually, they have a habit of just turning up anywhere. Have a wonderful week and enjoy the warm weather, we are.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. “…the only bird I saw to photograph was our Australian White Ibis.” Well, they deserve a whole post!
    What a beak, what a flight pattern! If the Ibis were the only animal on the face of the earth, our Creator would still be due all awe and glory.
    Thank you Ashley for another inspiring article and the uplifting encouragement so needed in today’s world. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lisa Beth, it was the Lord who inspired me to do the post on our Ibis, as I did not have anything this week, so yes, seeing the common white ibis gave me the opportunity to highlight it as it is as important as other birds. Blessings dear sister. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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