The babies are coming in thick and fast here at Flamingo Land! This week, we’re welcoming not one, but two sacred ibis chicks to the flock. The chicks are feeding from their mother and are doing well! They can be seen in the Lost Kingdom aviary, between the rhinos and the lions.
The sacred ibis is a wading bird native to Africa, where it has a wide home range and can be found almost anywhere south of the Sahara desert. Once found in Egypt, it played a significant religious role representing the god Thoth, and was depicted in many murals and sculptures. Its long legs and beak means it is best suited to hunting at the water’s edge, picking out fish and crustaceans. However, ibis are extremely adaptable and will happily eat frogs, small mammals and even other birds! Sacred ibis have been introduced into various parts of Europe and the United States, but due to this adaptability they have bred extremely quickly and can outcompete smaller birds like terns and egrets. They can even be found feeding on rubbish tips during the winter, helping them to survive the cold weather!
At Flamingo Land, our sacred ibis share their enclosure with a number of other wading birds. Its closest relative there is the scarlet ibis, which is in the same family but is instead found in tropical South America. Its bright red plumage makes it quite easy to tell the two apart! We also keep the cattle egret, which is found across the whole world but originally native to southern Europe and Africa, and the hamerkop, another African bird which is named for its hammer-shaped head. The hamerkop, although occupying a wide home range, is potentially threatened by the deterioration of water quality in wetland areas caused by excessive pesticide use. As a result, they are part of a breeding programme known as the European Studbook, which is coordinated by our zoo manager. He keeps records of all individuals in accredited zoos in Europe, noting any births, deaths, moves or pairings. By analysing this information, he can judge whether the species is doing well enough on its own, or whether a more intensive breeding programme is necessary. Although sacred ibis are currently common, their range has become more restricted since the Ancient Egyptian era thousands of years ago, and it is possible that continued loss of wetland habitats will mean that similar conservation measures will be necessary in the future.
Michael Darling, Education Marketing Officer