Threskiornis aethiopicus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Threskiornis aethiopicus
Species Authority: (Latham, 1790)
Common Name(s):
English African Sacred Ibis, Sacred Ibis
Taxonomic Notes: Threskiornis aethiopicus (Sibley and Monroe 1993) has been split into T. aethiopicus and T. bernieri following Sibley and Monroe (1990) whose treatment has been adopted by the BirdLife Taxonomic Working Group on the basis of bernieri's smaller size, proportionately much smaller, slimmer bill, little or no black in the wing-tips, a bluish-white or white, not brown iris, paler, less well developed ornamental plumes, the apparent absence of a neck-sac and its restriction to estuarine and coastal areas.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Geographic Range [top]

Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Comoros; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Kenya; Lesotho; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Regionally extinct:
Bahrain; France; Spain
Azerbaijan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Oman; Saudi Arabia
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Behaviour This species is an intra-African migrant, making nomadic or partially migratory movements of several hundred kilometres to breed during the rains (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992). Populations north of the equator migrate northwards and those south of the equator migrate southwards (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992), both groups returning towards the equator at the end of the breeding season (Brown et al. 1982). Some populations (e.g. in southern Africa) may also be sedentary (Hockey et al. 2005). The species starts to breed during or shortly after the rains, although in flooded areas it also breeds during the dry season, usually nesting in large mixed-species colonies of 50-2,000 pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is a very gregarious species, often flying more than 30 km away from the colony to feed (Brown et al. 1982, Hockey et al. 2005). The species also roosts nightly in large numbers at breeding sites, on islets in rivers or flood-lands, on trees near dams, or in villages (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat The species mainly inhabits the margins of inland freshwater wetlands, sewage works (del Hoyo et al. 1992), saltpans (Martin and Randall 1987), farm dams (Hockey et al. 2005), rivers in open forest (Brown et al. 1982), grasslands, and cultivated fields, as well as coastal lagoons, intertidal areas, offshore islands (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and mangroves (Langrand 1990) (especially in the dry season) (Hancock et al. 1992). It may also occur in more human environments such as farmyards, abattoirs and refuse dumps on the outskirts of towns (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet Its diet consists largely of insects including grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, and aquatic beetles, although it will also take crustaceans, worms, molluscs, fish, frogs, lizards, small mammals, the eggs of Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus and crocodiles, nestling Cape Cormorants Phalacrocorax capensis, carrion, offal and seeds (Brown et al. 1982, Hancock et al. 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site The nest is a large platform of sticks and branches built in trees or bushes, or placed on the ground on rocky islands (Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992).
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The population on Aldabra Island has declined due to hunting and disturbance by temporary workers (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species is also susceptible to avian botulism, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (van Heerden 1974). Utilisation The eggs and young of this species are collected by local people in Madagascar (Langrand 1990, Hancock et al. 1992).

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Threskiornis aethiopicus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 02 April 2015.
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