Bald Ibis bird

Bald Ibis bird

Literature page Bald Ibis

[order] Ciconiiformes | [family] Threskiornithidae | [latin] Geronticus eremita | [UK] Bald Ibis | [FR] Ibis chauve | [DE] Waldrapp | [ES] Ibis calvo | [IT] Ibis eremita | [NL] Heremietibis

Bald Ibis

All-dark ibis with dull red decurved bill and face, wispy hind-ruff on head, and reddish legs. Plumage glossed with bronze-green, purple, copper, and violet.

Considerably larger and more heavily built than Glossy Ibis and easily distinguished even at distance or in flight, when colour of bill, head, and legs not apparent, by shorter neck and legs, less bulbous head, and less rounded wings with 3-4 short, well separated ,fingers’.

It forages in large groups, preferring areas of semi-arid littoral steppe with very sparse vegetation, but also pastures and cultivated fields, feeding on any available animal-life; its favoured invertebrates are most abundant on the littoral steppe.

It breeds colonially (up to 40 or more pairs) on cliff-ledges, the remaining colonies being all on seacliffs. In contrast with the now extinct populations in Turkey and elsewhere in Morocco, the birds are not migratory and present in Souss-Massa National Park throughout the year.

Mortality during migration appears to be high among the Syrian birds; only one recruit joined the colony in 2004, out of 14 fledged and migrated juveniles.

Breeding performance is highly variable from one year to the next but does not appear to be related to rainfall in the vicinity of the colonies as previously reported elsewhere. It is suggested that coastal fogs in the Souss-Massa region may buffer the adverse impacts of low rainfall and may in part account for the year-round residency of the birds. The Turkish population has been shown to be genetically distinct from the Moroccan population.

Geronticus eremita breeds mostly outside Europe in Morocco and (to a lesser extent) Syria, but a tiny breeding population of 15 pairs also persists at Bireçik in Turkey.

Although this population underwent a large decline between 1970-1990, it was stable during 1990-2000. Nevertheless, as a consequence of the tiny size of its European population, this globally threatened species is evaluated as Critically Endangered in Europe.

Until recently Geronticus eremita was believed to survive only in Morocco at Souss-Massa National Park (338 km2; three colonies) and at nearby Tamri (one colony, almost half the breeding population), with some movement of birds between these two sites. There are reports of it in Mauritania as a non-breeder.

A colony of three pairs and one adult was recently discovered in Talila, Syria; and further breeding colonies may exist across the Syrian Steppe, although searches in 2003 proved fruitless. A further colony exists at Bireçik, Turkey, but is now heavily managed; with birds taken into captivity after the breeding season to prevent them from migrating. It is thought that birds used to winter in Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and perhaps Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, with the most recent wintering record being of three adults in February 1997 in the Massawa area of Eritrea.

Post-1989 records in Saudi Arabia and Eritrea suggested that an undiscovered breeding colony remained in the Middle East, which has now been confirmed by the discoveries in Syria. In 1994, the Moroccan population was estimated at 300 individuals (59 breeding pairs).

In 1998, it had declined to c.200 birds, following the mysterious death of 40 birds in 1996. In 1999, the population had increased slightly, and by 2006 there were around 277 adult birds, of which 102 pairs made nests (92 pairs laid eggs). Importantly, since 1980 there has been no overall decline in numbers at Souss-Massa NP.

Growing numbers, and good productivity in recent years (over 500 birds in the Moroccan population after the breeding season in recent years) gives cause for optimism that former colonies may soon be recolonised.

The Turkish population now numbers 86, and is expected to rise to 100 in 2006. The Syrian population has suffered a severe population decline in the past 30 years, and numbered just five adults in 2005. Captive bred populations exist at Grünau, Austria (22 birds, now breeding), and another is planned in Fagagna, Italy.

Insects like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, locusts and small reptiles, frogs and fish. Usually feeds in small, loose flocks.

This species has undergone a long-term decline and now has an extremely small range and population. Numbers are currently increasing, partly due to management actions and consequent improved breeding success.

However, this improvement in its status in Morocco is very recent and the species may still be undergoing a continuing decline; in Syria its population appears to have declined dramatically in the past 20 years. The species is therefore retained as Critically Endangered because of its extremely small population undergoing continuing decline. [conservation status from]

Eggs laid in Morocco end March and early April in Turkey. One brood. Nest is built on cliff ledges and among boulders on steep slopes up to 100 m above ground. Cliffs by sea or inland, when usually near river.

On top of old buildings in one area of Morocco. Have used artificial ledges provided by conservationists in Turkey. Nest is loose platform of small branches, lined softer materials such as grass and straw; tufts of vegetation and pieces of paper sometimes incorporated. Clutch size varies usually 2-4, incubated 24-25 days. Young Fledge after 40-50 days.

Migratory in east; Turkish birds wintered north-east Africa, reaching Ethiopia December and returning to colonies February and March. Moroccan breeders remain in or near colonies all year, dispersing along coast.

Bald Ibis Distribution Map



  • spanwidth min.: 125 cm
  • spanwidth max.: 135 cm
  • size min.: 70 cm
  • size max.: 80 cm


  • incubation min.: 24 days
  • incubation max.: 25 days
  • fledging min.: 40 days
  • fledging max.: 50 days
  • broods 1
  • eggs min.: 2
  • eggs max.: 4

Conservation Status

Bald Ibis Conservation Status

European links

Bald Ibis EU rapport (PDF)

Birdlife factsheet Bald Ibis

Bald Ibis EU species database

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