BORN SURVIVORS: A flock of ibis at the Buderim dump.
BORN SURVIVORS: A flock of ibis at the Buderim dump. Warren Lynam

Reasons to love Ibises: Why 'tip turkeys' deserve a break

THEY'RE the birds we love to hate.

"Tip turkeys", "sandwich snatchers" or "feathered rats" - the poor old Australian white ibis gets a bad rap.

If you've ever seen an ibis pulling rubbish out of a smelly public bin, or swashbuckling a meal from a distracted picnicker, you can understand why.

But the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife says it's not fair.

Apparently, there are some reasons to love the birds.

Well, at least four of them:

1. Ibises make great gardeners:

The white ibises like to eat up beetle larvae. This helps protect your garden, as beetle larvae eat the roots of grasses and other plants.

The ibis' long beak is great for aerating the soil, allowing air, water and nutrients to penetrate your plant's roots.

As the white ibis moves around, its droppings help fertilise your soil.

2. Ibises fight locust plagues:

Every farmer's worst nightmare is a massive swarm of locusts descending on their crops.

The white ibis, while unable to stop a big plague, can stuff its belly full of locust nymphs before they have formed into flying adults.

3. Ibises are true romantics:

A male White Ibis is quite the gentleman.

During breeding season, males will congregate on a tree and claim a branch as their stage. When a female comes close, they will all start bowing deeply to her to try to impress her.

When she spots her favourite male, she flies over to him and he will offer her a branch in his beak, maybe a symbol of the nest and family they can build together.

4. Ibises have nowhere else to go:

It might seem like ibis numbers are increasing in our cities. In their natural, rural habitats, however, ibises are facing big declines.

Water being diverted away from wetlands and into farming, combined with severe droughts, has left these birds with no alternative but to adapt to a new way of life in our towns and cities.

"So the next time you see a white ibis strolling across a lawn, be thankful," Susanna Bradshaw, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife said.

"They are not only helping with the gardening, they are also fighting plagues and looking after their families.

"Most importantly, they are just trying to survive in rapidly shrinking habitats."

Ms Bradshaw said it was amazing how adaptable the white ibis was.

As their natural wetland habitats in rural parts of Australia have been drying up, they have been able to set up new homes in our towns.

"It would be nice to see them strolling through the natural wetlands once more and no longer needing to scavenge through our rubbish bins and tips," she said.


IBIS TIPS

Tips for living happily with ibises:

  • Secure your bins.
  • Tell the council if you see ibises pulling rubbish from public bins, so that the problem can be resolved with a lid.
  • Avoid feeding ibises so they don't learn that humans have tasty food for the taking.
  • Don't leave food scraps lying around as they are bad for native animals to eat and can promote harmful algal blooms, polluting our waterways.
  • Plant native trees, instead of the exotic palms that ibises like to nest in.


Interesting facts:

  • During the breeding season a small patch of skin underneath an Ibis's wing changes from dull pink to dark scarlet.
  • When flying, flocks of Australian white Ibis form distinctive V-shaped flight patterns.
  • Another common name for this bird is sacred ibis, but this name is more appropriate for the closely-related African species.

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