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2011-07-19
Northern Bald Ibis - critically endangered.


The Northern Bald Ibis - Geronticus eremita - is a migratory Ibis found in barren, semi-desert or rocky habitats, often close to running water. It is a large, glossy black bird. The plumage is black, with bronze-green and violet iridescence, and there is a wispy ruff on the bird's hind neck. The face and head are dull red and unfeathered, and the long, curved bill and the legs are red. In flight, this bird has powerful, shallow, and flexible wing beats. It gives guttural hrump and high, hoarse hyoh calls at its breeding colonies, but is otherwise silent.

The sexes are similar in plumage, although males are generally larger than females and, as with other ibises that breed in colonies, have longer. The longer-billed males are more successful in attracting a mate. The downy chick has uniformly pale brown plumage, and the fledged juvenile resembles the adult except that it has a dark head, light grey legs, and a pale bill. The unfeathered areas of the young bird's head and neck gradually become red as it matures. Moroccan birds have a significantly longer bill than Turkish birds of the same sex.

The Northern Bald Ibis is readily distinguished from its close relative, the Southern Bald Ibis of Southern Africa, by the southern species' whitish face.

It breeds colonially on mountain cliff ledges. This ibis starts breeding at 3 to 5 years of age and pairs for life. The male chooses a nest site, cleans it, and then advertises for a female by waving his crest and giving low rumbling calls. Once the birds have paired, the bond is reinforced through bowing displays and mutual preening. The nest is a loose construction of twigs lined with grass or straw. They normally lay 2 to 4 eggs.

Food consists of lizards, insects, ground-nesting birds, invertebrates such as snails, scorpions, spiders, caterpillars and other small animals.

It was once widespread across Africa, Southern Europe and the Middle East. It disappeared from Europe over 300 years ago, and is now is critically endangered. There are believed to be about 500 wild birds remaining in southern Morrocco, and fewer than 10 in Syria, where it was rediscovered in 2002. To combat these ebbing numbers, recent reintroduction programs have been instituted internationally, with a semi-wild breeding colony in Turkey, as well as sites in Austria, Spain and northern Morocco.

Follow the progress of the remaining Syrian Northern Bald Ibis...

www.rspb.org.uk/ibistracking

Two of the last three adults still have functioning ptt transmitters. The birds have left the Syrian colony early (as they did in 2010) despite a wetter year, and most importantly, 2 successfully fledged juveniles left at the same time - a great credit to the Syrian rangers and Desert Commission team, despite the obviou
s difficulties in the country.

The reasons for the species' long-term decline are unclear, but hunting, loss of foraging habitat, and pesticide poisoning have been implicated in the rapid loss of colonies in recent decades.

 


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