African Sacred Ibis
(Threskiornis aethiopicus)

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Invasive Status
Invasive Population increasing
Natural Range
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
Introduced Range
  • France
  • Italy
  • Possibly the Canary Islands 
Zoological parks

Predation of native species

Removal Methods

Local active culling via hunting

The African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is a large, black-and-white bird associated with wetlands, although they are increasingly developing urban habits such as scavenging from rubbish dumps.


Natural RangeEdit

The African sacred ibis is, as it's name suggests, native to Africa. It can be found accross almost the whole of the sub-Saharan African mainland, excluding the eastern half of the Horn of Africa and the Namib and Kalahari deserts. [1] It was also present in Egypt but has become extinct there. [2]

It is also present in lower numbers in Iraq ([3]) and seen only occassionally in surrounding countries. [2]

Introduced RangeEdit

The African sacred ibis is most prevalent as an introduced species in France, with populations in the west and the south. On the west coast, they are breeding reguarly from Morbihan to Gironde. The largest population is present on an artificial island in the Loire estuary. Birds originating from these populations are being seen increasignly frequently in Brittany and Normandy, suggesting these birds are spreading. Estimates for the total population on the west coast stood at 2500 birds in the winter of 2003-04 and 3000 birds a year later. African sacred ibises are also breeding along France's Mediterranean coast. There are thought to be at least 250 birds here. It is thought that they occassionally pass over the French-Spanish border into Catalonia. A bird ringed at Lac de Grand-Lieu was seen on the Belgian border but no permanent population has been seen there. [3]

It has been introduced to north-west Italy and has been observed breeeding there since 1989. The latest scientifically valid count took place in 2000 at which time 26 breeding pairs and 100 individuals were seen in the upper Po Valley. Populations have grown since then, though there are no reliable estimates for thier sizes. [3]

Up to 5 birds have been seen reguarly at the Guadalhorce rivermouth in Malaga in Spain, with adolescent birds appearing more recently, suggesting breeding may be occuring. [3]

Up to five breeding pairs have been present in the Canary Islands in the wild near zoos on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Birds have escaped zoos in several European countries including 70in Belgium, 30 in Britain and a trio near Coimbra, Portugal which may have bred, as the observed population grew to 6. [3]

In UAE, a single-figure population bred on Sir Bani Yas Island, with no birds straying from the island. The population has since died out. A number of free-flying birds from Al Ain Zoo were seen in the area as late as 1997 in a group of 32 (down from an original 70). Three animals were also seen at Dubai Creek wetland sanctuary from 2002 to 2004 but were assumd to be escapees and not a breeding population. Sacred ibises have been sighted in various places in UAE in low numbers since 1982 and it is thought some of these could be vagrants from Iraq. [3]

Two pairs of Afrcan sacred ibises were present in the Evergaldes of Florida in 2005. Two nestlings were captured and given to a zoo. No sightings have been made since.

Pathways and IntroductionEdit

The African sacred ibis is a popular species in zoos. As free-flying zoo populations became popular in the 1970s, many escapes occured. [3]


The African sacred ibis is a predator and eats a variety of invertebrates,as well as some vertebrate prey such as fish, amphibians and even young birds, as well as bird eggs. The ibises have been observed scaring birds ff their nests, allowing the ibises to take the eggs. Affected birds inlcude tern species, black-winged stilts, lapwings and even mallards, cattle egrets and little egrets. [3] Damage to salt pan structure has also been observed. [4]

Control and Removal MethodsEdit

Little action has been taken against African sacred ibises, although a population of 18 ([3]) birds in Barcelona was eradicated. Decisions on other plans of action are taking place in France. [4]



2 maps

3 [pdf]

4 DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe)