Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus).jpg
Black-headed ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus)
Scientific classification e
Poche, 1904
  • Threskiornis
  • Pseudibis
  • Thaumatibis
  • Geronticus
  • Nipponia
  • Bostrychia
  • Theristicus
  • Cercibis
  • Mesembrinibis
  • Phimosus
  • Eudocimus
  • Plegadis
  • Lophotibis

The ibises (/ˈbɪs/) (collective plural ibis;[1] classical plurals ibides[2][3] and ibes[3]) are a group of long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae, that inhabit wetlands, forests and plains.[4] "Ibis" derives from the Latin and Ancient Greek word for this group of birds. It also occurs in the scientific name of the cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) mistakenly identified in 1757 as being the sacred ibis.[5] The white Australia ibis is native to Australia and is seen by some as a urban eyesore or part of Australian meme subculture. [6]


Ibises all have long, downcurved bills, and usually feed as a group, probing mud for food items, usually crustaceans. They are monogamous and highly territorial while nesting and feeding.[4] Most nest in trees, often with spoonbills or herons. All extant species are capable of flight, but two extinct genera were flightless, namely the kiwi-like Apteribis in the Hawaiian Islands, and the peculiar Xenicibis in Jamaica.[4] The word ibis comes from Latin ibis[7] from Greek ἶβις ibis from Egyptian hb, hīb.[8]

Species in taxonomic order

There are 29 extant species and 6 extinct species of ibis.

ImageGenusLiving Species
Threskiornis molucca - Perth.jpgThreskiornis G.R. Gray, 1842
Indian Black Ibis Pseudibis papillosa by Dr. Raju Kasambe DSCN2445 (26).jpgPseudibis Hodgson, 1844
Hermit Ibis in Vienna Zoo on 2013-05-14.pngGeronticus Wagler, 1832
Nipponia nippon.jpgNipponia Reichenbach, 1850
Hadeda Ibis Portrait.jpgBostrychia G.R. Gray, 1847
  • Olive ibis, Bostrychia olivacea
  • São Tomé ibis, Bostrychia bocagei
  • Spot-breasted ibis, Bostrychia rara
  • Hadada ibis, Bostrychia hagedash
  • Wattled ibis, Bostrychia carunculata
Wildlife in and around Reserva Laguna Nimez in El Calafate, Argentina - there is some uncertainty here amongst some authorities- is this the Black Faced Ibis (Theristicus melanops) - OR - the (24560030193).jpgTheristicus Wagler, 1832
  • Plumbeous ibis, Theristicus caerulescens
  • Buff-necked ibis, Theristicus caudatus
  • Black-faced ibis, Theristicus melanopis
  • Andean ibis, Theristicus branickii
Cercibis oxycerca Tarotaro Sharp-tailed Ibis (6288776691).jpg
(c) Félix Uribe, CC BY-SA 2.0
Cercibis Wagler, 1832
  • Sharp-tailed ibis, Cercibis oxycerca
Green Ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis) (30903118634).jpgMesembrinibis J.L. Peters, 1930
  • Green ibis, Mesembrinibis cayennensis
Bare-faced Ibis (Phimosus infuscatus) (28370845522).jpgPhimosus Wagler, 1832
  • Bare-faced ibis, Phimosus infuscatus
Eudocimus Ruber Wading KL.JPGEudocimus Wagler, 1832
Plegadis chihi -California, USA-8.jpgPlegadis Kaup, 1829
  • Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus
  • White-faced ibis, Plegadis chihi
  • Puna ibis, Plegadis ridgwayi
Lophotibis cristata -Bronx Zoo-8.jpgLophotibis L. Reichenbach, 1853
  • Madagascar ibis, Lophotibis cristata
Apteribis sp. (5212794163).jpgApteribis Olson & Wetmore, 1976
  • A. glenos Olson & Wetmore, 1976 Molokai flightless ibis
  • A. brevis Olson & James, 1991 Maui flightless ibis

An extinct species, the Jamaican ibis or clubbed-wing ibis (Xenicibis xympithecus) was uniquely characterized by its club-like wings.

In culture

The African sacred ibis was an object of religious veneration in ancient Egypt, particularly associated with the deity Djehuty or otherwise commonly referred to in Greek as Thoth. He is responsible for writing, mathematics, measurement and time as well as the moon and magic.[12] In artworks of the Late Period of Ancient Egypt, Thoth is popularly depicted as an ibis-headed man in the act of writing.[12] However, Mitogenomic diversity in sacred ibis mummies indicate that ancient Egyptians captured the birds from the wild rather than farming them.[13]

At the town of Hermopolis, ibises were reared specifically for sacrificial purposes and in the serapeum at Saqqara, archaeologists found the mummies of one and a half million ibises and hundreds of thousands of falcons.[14]

According to local legend in the Birecik area, the northern bald ibis was one of the first birds that Noah released from the Ark as a symbol of fertility,[15] and a lingering religious sentiment in Turkey helped the colonies there to survive long after the demise of the species in Europe.[16][17]

The mascot of the University of Miami is an American white ibis named Sebastian. The ibis was selected as the school mascot because of its legendary bravery during hurricanes. According to legend, the ibis is the last sign of wildlife to take shelter before a hurricane hits and the first to reappear once the storm has passed.[18]

Harvard University's humor magazine, Harvard Lampoon, uses the ibis as its symbol. A copper statue of an ibis is prominently displayed on the roof of the Harvard Lampoon Building at 44 Bow Street.

A short story "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst uses the red bird as foreshadowing for a character's death and as the primary symbol.

The African sacred ibis is the unit symbol of the Israeli Special Forces unit known as Unit 212 or Maglan (Hebrew מגלן).

According to Josephus, Moses used the ibis to help him defeat the Ethiopians.[19]

The Australian white ibis has become a focus of art, pop culture and memes since rapidly adapting to city life in recent decades, and has earned the popular nicknames 'bin chicken' and 'tip turkey'.[20]



  1. ^ There is still disagreement on how the taxonomic rules should apply to the Australian white ibis, Both molluca and mollucus are currently used for species.[9][10][11]


  1. ^ "ibis". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  2. ^ Fennell, C. A. M., ed. (1892). The Stanford dictionary of Anglicised words and phrases. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 453. OCLC 1354115. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  3. ^ a b Pierce, Robert Morris (1910). Dictionary of Hard Words. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. p. 270. OCLC 4177508. Retrieved 6 October 2009.
  4. ^ a b c Longrich, N. R.; Olson, S. L. (5 January 2011). "The bizarre wing of the Jamaican flightless ibis Xenicibis xympithecus: a unique vertebrate adaptation". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 278 (1716): 2333–2337. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2117. PMC 3119002. PMID 21208965.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. ^ "The story of Bin Chicken Island, Melbourne's urban ibis paradise". Time Out Melbourne. Retrieved 2022-03-01.
  7. ^ "ibis". Chambers Dictionary.
  8. ^ Beekes, R. S. P. (2009) Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, p. 575.ISBN 9004174184.
  9. ^ David, Normand; Gosselin, Michel (2011). "Gender agreement of avian species-group names under Article 31.2. 2 of the ICZN Code" (PDF). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 131 (2): 102–115. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  10. ^ Schodde, Richard; Bock, Walter (2016). "Conflict resolution of grammar and gender for avian species-group names under Article 31.2. 2 of the ICZN Code: is gender agreement worth it?". Zootaxa. 4127 (1): 161–170. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4127.1.9. PMID 27395618.
  11. ^ Dickinson, Edward C.; David, Normand; Alonso-Zarazaga, Miguel A. (2017). "Some comments on Schodde & Bock (2016) on gender agreement" (PDF). Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 137 (2): 142–144. doi:10.25226/bboc.v137i2.2017.a2. S2CID 125994321. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  12. ^ a b Birmingham Museum of Art (2010). Birmingham Museum of Art : guide to the collection. Birmingham Museum of Art. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5.
  13. ^ Wasef, Sally; Subramanian, Sankar; O’Rorke, Richard; Huynen, Leon; El-Marghani, Samia; Curtis, Caitlin; Popinga, Alex; Holland, Barbara; Ikram, Salima; Millar, Craig; Willerslev, Eske; Lambert, David (2019). "Mitogenomic diversity in Sacred Ibis Mummies sheds light on early Egyptian practices". PLOS ONE. 14 (11): e0223964. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1423964W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0223964. PMC 6853290. PMID 31721774.
  14. ^ Fleming, Furgus; Alan Lothian (1997) The Way to Eternity: Egyptian Myth. Amsterdam: Time-Life Books. pp. 66–67
  15. ^ Shuker, Karl (2003). The Beasts That Hide from Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. Cosimo. pp. 166–168. ISBN 1-931044-64-3. "Dreams of a feathered Geronticus"
  16. ^ Beintema, Nienke. "Saving a charismatic bird" (PDF). AEWA Secretariat. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  17. ^ "Ancient Egyptians gathered birds from the wild for sacrifice and mummification: DNA study rejects the idea that Egyptians domesticated sacred ibis for ritual use". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2020-01-24.
  18. ^ Sebastian the Ibis. Hurricane sports
  19. ^ Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews. 2.10.
  20. ^ Contributor (2020-10-31). "Secrets of the Ibis: The surprising real reason 'bin chickens' took Sydney by storm". The Sydney Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-11-13. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)

External links

The dictionary definition of ibis at Wiktionary

Media files used on this page

Author/Creator: Dan Polansky based on work currently attributed to Wikimedia Foundation but originally created by Smurrayinchester, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
A logo derived from File:WiktionaryEn.svg, a logo showing a 3 x 3 matrix of variously rotated tiles with a letter or character on each tile. The derivation consisted in removing the tiles that form the background of each of the shown characters. File:WiktionaryEn.svg is under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike, created by Smurrayinchester, and attributed to Wikimedia Foundation. This is the version without the wordmark.
Author/Creator: Venkateshram0801, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Black Headed ibis gliding
Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus).jpg
Author/Creator: Hari Krishnan, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) photographed in natural habitat, Tirunelveli, India. It is a near-threatened species of wading bird breeding in Asia from India to the west as far as Japan in the east.

A large waterbird with adults measuring 65-76 cm in length, it is the only native ibis species in its range that has an overall white plumage starkly contrasted against a conspicuous naked black neck and head and a black, down-curved beak. Tails of adults bear light grey ornamental feathers that turn black during the breeding season, as can be seen here.

Like storks and spoonbills, it lacks a true voice-producing mechanism and is silent except for ventriloquistic grunts uttered by pairs at the nest.

A versatile species that uses a large variety of natural and man-made habitats including freshwater and saltwater marshes, lakes and ponds, crop fields, irrigation canals, urban lakes and grazing lots, they are now categorized as Near Threatened (NT) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as their population has declined considerably in southeast Asia.
Nipponia nippon.jpg
Author/Creator: Danielinblue, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Nipponia nippon (Temminck, 1835), Xi'an, China.
Wildlife in and around Reserva Laguna Nimez in El Calafate, Argentina - there is some uncertainty here amongst some authorities- is this the Black Faced Ibis (Theristicus melanops) - OR - the (24560030193).jpg
Author/Creator: Murray Foubister, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
wildlife in and around Reserva Laguna Nimez in El Calafate, Argentina...there is some uncertainty here amongst some authorities: is this the Black Faced Ibis (Theristicus melanops)..OR..the Buff-Necked Ibis (Theristicus caudatus)??...
Hermit Ibis in Vienna Zoo on 2013-05-14.png
Author/Creator: Robert F. Tobler, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
A Hermit Ibis in Vienna Zoo on May 14, 2013.
Hadada ibis, South Africa (2017).jpg
Author/Creator: Olga Ernst, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Hagedasch am Noordhoek Strand in Südafrika (2017)
Threskiornis molucca - Perth.jpg
Author/Creator: JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca), Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Indian Black Ibis Pseudibis papillosa by Dr. Raju Kasambe DSCN2445 (26).jpg
Author/Creator: Dr. Raju Kasambe, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Indian Black Ibis or Red-naped Ibis Pseudibis papillosa. Photographed by Dr. Raju Kasambe atAmravati, Maharashtra, India
Lophotibis cristata -Bronx Zoo-8.jpg
Author/Creator: Eric Savage, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
Madagascar Crested Ibis, also known as the White-winged Ibis or Crested Wood Ibis at Bronx Zoo, USA.
Waldrapp Geronticus eremita.jpg
Author/Creator: Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak MFB.jpg, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
Description: The Northern Bald Ibis, Hermit Ibis, or Waldrapp, Geronticus eremita, is a large bird found in barren semi-desert or rocky habitats, often but not always close to running water.
Eudocimus Ruber Wading KL.JPG
Author/Creator: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
A scarlet ibis (Eudocimus ruber) photographed in the massive aviary at the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park.
American white ibis2.jpg
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
AustralianWhiteIbis gobeirne.jpg
Author/Creator: Photograph by Greg O'Beirne, Licence: CC BY 2.5
Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca), Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia.
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) in AP W IMG 3918.jpg
Author/Creator: J.M.Garg, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Glossy Ibises Plegadis falcinellus in Kolleru, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Scarletibis tj.jpg
Author/Creator: TokyoJunkie, Licence: CC BY 2.5
I took this photo of a scarlet ibis while on a trip to SeaWorld California. Use of this photo is permitted provided that adequate credit is given. The camera used was an Olympus FE-115 digital camera, and was touched up in Photoshop to correct the color.
Threskiornis spinicollis-fragment.jpg
Author/Creator: Cyron Ray Macey from Brisbane (-27.470963,153.026505), Australia, Licence: CC BY 2.0
Straw Necked Ibis in the park across the road from the Royal Brisbane Hospital. This image is cropped from the original, as they wouldn't let me get very close
Straw Necked Ibis
Green Ibis (Mesembrinibis cayennensis) (30903118634).jpg
Author/Creator: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
Transpantaneira, Poconé, Mato Grosso, BRAZIL
Bare-faced Ibis (Phimosus infuscatus) (28370845522).jpg
Author/Creator: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
Transpantaneira, Poconé, Mato Grosso, BRAZIL
Apteribis sp. (5212794163).jpg
Author/Creator: David Eickhoff from Pearl City, Hawaii, USA, Licence: CC BY 2.0

Artist model reconstruction

Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, there were once four species of Apteribis:

  • Molokaʻi ibis (Apteribis glenos)
  • Lānaʻi ibis (A. [unnamed])
  • Upland Maui ibis (A. brevis)
  • Lowland Maui ibis (A. [unnamed])

The four Apteribis are all extinct.

Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Plegadis chihi -California, USA-8.jpg
Author/Creator: Linda Tanner from Los Osos, California, U.S.A., Licence: CC BY 2.0
A White-faced Ibis in breeding condition at the mouth of the creek at Arroyo Laguna in California, USA.