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Australian White Ibis

(Threskiornis molucca)
Alternate name(s): "Black-necked Ibis", "Sickle-bird"; formerly "Sacred Ibis"
Size: 65-75 cm
Weight: 1.7-2.5 kg (male), 1.4-1.9 kg (female)
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Australian White Ibis at Wikipedia .

Click here for classification information

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range


Click here for sighting information




Near-frontal view of an Australian White Ibis (photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)
[Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW, April 2016]

Close-up lateral portrait of an Australian White Ibis in breeding plumage; note the pink skin on the nape of the neck (photo courtesy of J. Ross-Taylor)
[Gold Coast, QLD, June 2014]

Lateral view of an Australian White Ibis in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Moggill Regional Park, near Anstead, QLD, April 2017]

Dorsal view of an Australian White Ibis in breeding plumage; note the filamentary structure of the plumes (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Goondiwindi, QLD, February 2013]


Frontal view of an Australian White Ibis in non-breeding plumage shaking dry its feathers (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Gold Coast, QLD, May 2017]

Small colony of Australian White Ibises on a bank of Narrabri Lake, together with two Silver Gulls
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, May 2006]

Closer look at a flock of Australian White Ibises
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2007]

A whole array of aquatic birds hunting/foraging in O'Brien's Creek at Narrabri, NSW: three White-necked Herons, two Australian White Ibises in non-breeding plumage, two Great Egrets, one Purple Swamphen, one Dusky Moorhen and two Pacific Black Ducks
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2011]

Near-frontal view of an Australian White Ibis in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Lateral view of an Australian White Ibis in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, July 2010]

Flock of Australian White Ibises in flight, with the characteristic black tips of the primaries clearly visible
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2008]


Lateral view of an immature Australian White Ibis; note the mottled grey nape of the neck
[Narrabri, NSW, January 2009]

Lateral view of an immature Australian White Ibis
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2012]

Dorsal view of an immature Australian White Ibis
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, February 2012]

Immature Australian White Ibis waiting in a tree to be fed; when they are that young they are actually still white
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2009]

Immature Australian White Ibis in flight
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2012]

Here a dependent juvenile Australian White Ibis being fed
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2010]

Twitcher's tip

Here an example why one should never take things for granted while bird-watching: In October 2011 three birds flew over our property. The photo below shows two of them - identification as Australian White Ibis is easy.

Australian White Ibis seen from underneath
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

A second photo shows the remaining third bird and only closer inspection later, on the computer, showed that it had slightly different features...

The third bird turned out to be an "interloper"...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Aug - Dec Eggs: 2 - 5 Incubation period: 20 - 23 days Fledging age: ca. 49 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. In the tropical north Australian White Ibises breed Feb - May. Given the right conditions, Australian White Ibises can breed any time of the year. They breed in tightly packed colonies, together with other aquatic birds.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, lined with leaves Height above ground: 0 - 20 m

Australian White Ibises can nest in trees or just above water level, e.g. on lignum. They often nest in loose colonies, together with other aquatic species.

Australian White Ibises are the number 1 cause of bird strikes around airports, which is the reason why breeding colonies as shown below are often destroyed or at least reduced if found near major airports.

Close-up view of an Australian White Ibis on its nest (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Gatton, QLD, July 2017]

Small Australian White Ibis colony at the Gold Coast (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Carrara, Gold Coast, QLD, November 2014]

Australian White Ibises nesting at Narrabri Lake
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, September 2010]

Australian White Ibises giving an example of colonial nesting
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2011]

Here a nest with three juvenile Australian White Ibises in it, ready to leave any time
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2010]

After seeing Australian White Ibises nesting in trees for many years, here the first nest in reeds - this indicates that the birds expect the lake not to dry up during the nesting season
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, August 2012]

Australian White Ibis carrying nesting material
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, December 2012]


"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 65 x 45 mm Colour: Creamy Shape: Elliptical


Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Sedentary/dispersive Elementary unit: Flock

Small group of Australian White Ibises seen in a riverine mudflat
[Brewarrina, NSW, September 2012]

Food, Diet

Adults: Small animals, frogs, leftovers Dependents: As adults Water intake: ?

Ibises feed on small animals that they pull out of mud or soft soil. Australian White Ibises are also known to scavenge; they are often seen around rubbish tips.

Additional information

There is a separate page describing a dependent Australian White Ibis being fed.

Australian White Ibis gobbling up what looks like a cicada (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Goondiwindi, QLD, February 2013]

Immature Australian White Ibis foraging through a mangrove mudflat
[Urunga board walk, Urunga Heads, NSW, February 2012]

Part of a large flock of Australian White Ibises scavenging at the local rubbish tip
[Narrabri, NSW, February 2012]

Sometimes Australian White Ibises can be seen foraging on grassland near water, such as e.g. freshwater lakes, in a manner that is more typical of Straw-necked Ibises
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2013]

Australian White Ibis with an enormously full crop
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, October 2016]


For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

auwibis_20160331.mp3 (NW NSW) Contact call © MD
auwibis_20160322.mp3 (NW NSW) Departure © MD
auwibis_20141104.mp3 (NW NSW) Warning calls (in-flight) © MD
auwibis_20161104.mp3 (NW NSW) Warning calls (in-flight; spotted observer) © MD

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

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If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.