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Ibis: Northern bald or Waldrapp ibis

Geronticus erimita
Bird

IUCN Status
A “critically endangered” species with less than 500 individuals in the wild. Their numbers have drastically reduced from many tens of thousands across southern Europe and North Africa almost entirely caused more recently by pesticide use in agriculture,



Diet

Insects (particularly beetles, caterpillars) and some small vertebrates (lizards) & nesting ground birds. As they probe for food while wandering around the grass has to low and the vegetation sparse (well spread out).

Habitat

Mountainous highlands (above 1200m) in North Africa (restricted to Morocco and possibly Syria).

Behaviour

A colony flock breeder and roosting species the birds “commute” from breeding sites, to feeding grounds and winter roosts. The birds are sexually mature from 3-5 years of age and pair bond for life

Breeding

Cliff ledges and large loose boulders are chosen building stick nests into which 2 -4 eggs are laid on open faces of inland mountains. These have to be close the steppe grasses in which they forage (+/- 15km).

Fun Facts

This and the Southern bald ibis are the only 2 species of ibis to have no feathers on their head and face!

They breed on cliffs instead of trees and prefer an arid/dry habitat for foraging unlike all the other ibis species.

Stock from European zoos has been used to try and re-introduce this species several times. So far unsuccessful but one remaining flock at the North east of Morocco is breeding and surviving and may yet establish in the wild.

At The Zoo

A European breeding program with about 1,000 birds means this species is well protected from extinction in the “zoo ark”. We have a potential pair here but they are middle aged individuals and although they build a huge stick nest each year – no breeding as yet.