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Queenscliffe Herald Article - May 2005

The Ibis – a Distinctive Local Bird

Swan Bay and its regions are renowned for the huge numbers of birds which feed, visit or breed in the area. Most residents would recognise the ibis, the large bird (70cm) with a long curved bill, often seen flying in large flocks across the skyline.

Occasionally the smaller Glossy Ibis, which is completely blackish-brown, is sighted. But the two types of ibis most commonly seen here are the Sacred Ibis, white except for black on its head, neck and tail feathers, and the Straw Necked Ibis, which has black plumage above and white below. The Sacred Ibis mainly inhabits wetlands, where it feeds principally on aquatic invertebrates. The Straw Necked Ibis inhabits both shallow wetlands and dry land. As well as aquatic insects, molluscs and frogs, it is fond of land-based insects and worms and is particularly partial to grasshoppers and locusts. When driving to Geelong you will often see flocks of ibis probing the paddocks for food.

The ibis fly in a V pattern with synchronised wing beats and glides. Very occasionally a pelican has been seen at the point of the V leading the ibis, rather like a father taking the children for a walk.

One of the nesting sites of ibis is Mud Island in Port Phillip Bay, but the birds are nomadic and not a great deal is known as to where they fly and why, but they are found almost everywhere in Australia provided wetlands or pastures are within reach. They may be flying to seek better feeding grounds and nesting sites and these are influenced by the weather. For example during a particularly wet season a few years ago there were huge numbers of birds on the move, probably enjoying particularly abundant pickings due to the soft soil and increase in insects.

Or perhaps, like some humans, the flying ibis flocks are just enjoying soaring in the thermals!

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