Threskiornithidae, ibis and spoonbill family
Critically Endangered, IUCN
Historically – Europe, North Africa and the Middle East
Currently – small populations in Morocco, Syria and Turkey
Semi-arid steppe areas
These birds were once common in the Alps of central Europe, often coming into peoples’ gardens searching for insects. They were very tame, and their meat was considered a delicacy. Young ibis were taken from their nests and served to royalty. Much of what is known about their former range is taken from medieval cookbooks. Another common name for this bird is Northern Bald Ibis.
They are raven-sized birds with iridescent black plumage, long downward-curving red bill and long legs. Their heads are naked but covered with wrinkled skin topped with a bulbous cap. A shaggy ruff of black feathers around neck is raised in courtship displays. Long legs and long, downward-curving bill make them well adapted to obtaining food by probing shallow water, mud and grasses. The tip of the bill is very sensitive, allowing the birds to detect food more by touch than by sight.
The Waldrapp Ibis is one of the world’s most critically threatened avian species. Once common across central Europe, North Africa & the Middle East, today the only breeding colonies in the wild are in Morocco and perhaps a small one in Turkey. Their decline is due to loss of habitat, uncontrolled hunting and pesticides in the food chain.