Ibis

The uncommon Southern Bald Ibis is endemic to the eastern regions of South Africa and restricted to the highland and mountain regions.  Only about 4600 breeding birds of this species remain. This large (28-31 in. long) glossy, blue-black ibis has an unfeathered red face and head, and a long decurved red bill.  Known as the “quiet bird” as it is generally silent.

The African Sacred Ibis is also about 30 in. long and generally silent.  Initially found in Egypt, it was venerated and mummified as a votive offering to the god Thoth.  Over a period of hundreds of years, it is estimated that 8 million birds were mummified and entombed by the Ancient Egyptians. To sustain sufficient numbers of birds for sacrifices, ibis breeding farms were maintained.  Amazingly, by 1850 the species had disappeared from Egypt both as a breeding and migrant population, mainly due to loss of marsh lands, but has flourished in other parts of Africa. It began to breed in South Africa in the early 20th century and is now found throughout.  Flocks of these birds flying in “V” formation are spectacular to view with their large white bodies, solid black heads, bills and necks and white wings edged in black! 

The Hadeda Ibis, also about 30 in. long, is known as South Africa’s “common garden bird”, because it has adapted to the extensive expansion of urbanization.  While found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa in grasslands, savannas and wetlands, it has successfully adopted parks, school fields, green corridors and residential gardens for its feeding on grubs and earthworms. Tagged as the “unruly cousin” of the African Sacred Ibis, it has an extremely loud and distinctive “haa-haa-haa-de-dah” call—thus its name.  A most annoying event when flocks of these birds fly into neighborhoods in the early mornings.