Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Threskiornis aethiopicus
(sacred ibis)



Threskiornis aethiopicus (sacred ibis)


  • Last modified
  • 24 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Threskiornis aethiopicus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • sacred ibis
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Aves
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • T. aethiopicus is commonly presented in zoological parks around the world; in several cases, birds are allowed to fly freely and can move out of the zoo limits and constitute feral populations. The first feral po...

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Colony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.
TitleA colony of Sacred ibis
CaptionColony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.
CopyrightPhilippe Clergeau
Colony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.
A colony of Sacred ibisColony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.Philippe Clergeau
Individual birds in a colony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.
TitleIndividual birds
CaptionIndividual birds in a colony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.
CopyrightPhilippe Clergeau
Individual birds in a colony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.
Individual birdsIndividual birds in a colony of Sacred ibis on an island in the estuary of the River Loire. Loire-Atlantique, France.Philippe Clergeau
The nests of sacred ibis are made on the ground. France.
TitleNests with eggs
CaptionThe nests of sacred ibis are made on the ground. France.
CopyrightPhilippe Clergeau
The nests of sacred ibis are made on the ground. France.
Nests with eggsThe nests of sacred ibis are made on the ground. France.Philippe Clergeau
A nest with a clutch of two eggs. France.
TitleNest with eggs
CaptionA nest with a clutch of two eggs. France.
CopyrightPhilippe Clergeau
A nest with a clutch of two eggs. France.
Nest with eggsA nest with a clutch of two eggs. France.Philippe Clergeau
Close-up of a Sacred ibis nest with a clutch of two eggs. France
TitleNest with eggs
CaptionClose-up of a Sacred ibis nest with a clutch of two eggs. France
CopyrightPhilippe Clergeau
Close-up of a Sacred ibis nest with a clutch of two eggs. France
Nest with eggsClose-up of a Sacred ibis nest with a clutch of two eggs. FrancePhilippe Clergeau
Sacred ibis foraging on the coast at low tide.  France
TitleSacred ibis foraging
CaptionSacred ibis foraging on the coast at low tide. France
CopyrightPhilippe Clergeau
Sacred ibis foraging on the coast at low tide.  France
Sacred ibis foragingSacred ibis foraging on the coast at low tide. FrancePhilippe Clergeau


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Threskiornis aethiopicus (Latham, 1790)

Preferred Common Name

  • sacred ibis

Other Scientific Names

  • Tantalus aethiopicus Latham 1790
  • Threskiornis aethiopica

Local Common Names

  • France: ibis sacré
  • Germany: heiliger Ibis
  • Spain: ibis sagrado

Summary of Invasiveness

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T. aethiopicus is commonly presented in zoological parks around the world; in several cases, birds are allowed to fly freely and can move out of the zoo limits and constitute feral populations. The first feral populations were observed in the 1970s in eastern Spain and in the 1990s in western France; more recently they have been observed in southern France, northern Italy, Taiwan, The Netherlands and the eastern USA. In France, these populations rapidly became numerous (more than 5000 birds in western France) and spread over some thousand kilometres, giving rise to new colonies. Although the impacts of feral populations of ibis have not been analysed in all introduced areas, studies in western and southern France indicate the predatory impact of this opportunist bird (especially destruction of tern and heron eggs and young, and capture of amphibians), as has been observed in its native range (South Africa; Williams and Ward, 2006). Other impacts are observed, such as the destruction of vegetation at breeding sites, or suspected, such as the spreading of diseases -- ibises frequently visit rubbish dumps and slurry pits to catch insect larvae and can then move to pastures or poultry farms.

The status of T. aethiopicus is “widespread and not threatened”. It is not listed as an alien invasive species by the Global Invasive Species Database (from IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group), but it is listed by DAISIE.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Aves
  •                     Order: Ciconiiformes
  •                         Family: Threskiornithidae
  •                             Genus: Threskiornis
  •                                 Species: Threskiornis aethiopicus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Black-headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) in south Asia and the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) in Australia are considered by some authors as races of T. aethiopicus.

Three subspecies are distinguished in T. aethiopicus, although these are perhaps only morphological variations:
T. aethiopicus aethiopicus (Latham, 1790), in sub-Saharan Africa (the main area of distribution) and southern Iraq; formerly in Egypt
T. aethiopicus bernieri (Bonaparte, 1855), in Madagascar
T. aethiopicus abbotti (Ridgway, 1893), on the island of Aldabra.


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T. aethiopicus has a length of 65-89 cm and a wingspan of 112-124 cm; the weight is about 1500g (Urban, 1974). The female adults are smaller, especially the bill. The plumage is white with primaries and secondaries tipped black. The bill is curved and thick. The head and the neck are bare and black. Immature birds have blackish-brown tertials and the head and neck are feathered (Hoyo et al., 1992; Reeber, 2005).


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T. aethiopicus in zoos seem to originate essentially from Kenya. There are also exchanges of birds between zoos. Today there are numerous small feral populations of T. aethiopicus around the world. The oldest populations, as in France, remained stable at low numbers for several years before exploding about 10 years ago. The current biggest feral population occurs in western France and tagged birds have dispersed to some neighbouring countries. The Italian population seems to have been spreading in recent years.

In addition to the countries listed in the distribution table, the species is also reported to have been introduced to Taiwan (P. Yésou (Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, délégation de l'Ouest, France) and W. Hu (Yangte Blvd Sec., Taipei, Taiwan), personal communication, 2006).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


AngolaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
BeninPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
BotswanaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Burkina FasoPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
BurundiPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
CameroonPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Central African RepublicPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
ChadPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Congo, Democratic Republic of thePresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Congo, Republic of thePresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Côte d'IvoirePresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
DjiboutiPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Equatorial GuineaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
EritreaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
EswatiniPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
EthiopiaPresent, WidespreadNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
GabonPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
GambiaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
GhanaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
GuineaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Guinea-BissauPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
KenyaPresent, WidespreadNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
LesothoPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
LiberiaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
MadagascarPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
MalawiPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
MozambiquePresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
NigeriaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
RwandaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
SenegalPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
-Aldabra IslandsPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
Sierra LeonePresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
SomaliaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
South AfricaPresent, WidespreadNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
SudanPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
TanzaniaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
TogoPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
UgandaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
ZambiaPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
ZimbabwePresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)


IraqPresentNativeHoyo et al. (1992)Amara
KuwaitPresent, Few occurrencesNativeHoyo et al. (1992)
United Arab EmiratesPresentIntroduced1976Lever (2005)


BelgiumAbsent, Formerly presentClergeau and Yésou (2006)One attempt at breeding in 2001
FrancePresent, WidespreadIntroducedInvasiveClergeau and Yésou (2006)First feral reproduction in western France in 1991, in southern France in 2000
GermanyPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationClergeau and Yésou (2006)
ItalyPresent, Widespread2008Introduced1989Clergeau and Yésou (2006)At least 3 colonies in the Piedmont
LuxembourgPresent, Only in captivity/cultivationClergeau and Yésou (2006)
NetherlandsPresent, Few occurrencesIntroduced2002Ottens (2006)
PortugalPresent, Few occurrencesIntroduced1998Clergeau and Yésou (2006)Coimbra?
SpainPresentIntroducedLever (2005); Clergeau and Yésou (2006); Juana (2006)Feral populations in Catalonia (1974, possibly eradicated); Malaga (1997?); Andalucia (2008, possibly eradicated)
-Canary IslandsPresent2005Introduced1997Lever (2005); Clergeau and Yésou (2006)Only a few pairs from 1997
United KingdomPresent, Few occurrencesIntroducedCABI (Undated)Original citation: J. Marchant, British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, UK, personal comunication, 2011

North America

United StatesPresentCABI (Undated a)Present based on regional distribution.
-FloridaPresent, WidespreadIntroducedHerring et al. (2006); Herring and Gawlik (2008)Only a few nests in 4 colonies. Breeding only since 2005; First reported: 1990s

History of Introduction and Spread

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All the introductions of T. aethiopicus are linked to escape from zoos. The history of the spread and breeding of the species is briefly presented here (For more details and other populations see Yésou and Clergeau (2005) and Clergeau and Yésou (2006)).

In Italy, T. aethiopicus has bred in the upper Po valley (Piedmont) since 1989, having escaped from a zoo near Turin. There were 26 pairs and about 100 individuals in 2000. In 2003, breeding was observed at another site in the same area, with possibly up to 25-30 pairs, and a few more pairs were found at a third colony in 2004. Since these dates there has been neither a co-ordinated count of the breeding sites nor an updated estimate of the population size.
In Western France, after 20 birds were imported from Kenya, a breeding colony soon became established at Branféré zoological garden in southern Brittany. There were 150 pairs in the zoo in 1990. The young were left free to fly and rapidly moved beyond the zoo, mostly visiting the nearby wetlands but also wandering hundreds of kilometres away along the Atlantic coast. Breeding in the wild was first noted in 1993 at both the Golfe du Morbihan, 25 km from the introduction site, and the Lac de Grand-Lieu, 70 km away. Breeding has not occurred at Branféré zoo since 1997. Colonies later occurred at various sites along the French Atlantic seaboard: in Brière marshes (up to about 100 nests), in the Golfe du Morbihan and on a marine island nearby (up to about 100 nests), with a few more nests up to 350 km south of Branféré at Brouage marshes and near Arcachon. The largest colony was discovered in 2004 on an artificial island in the estuary of the Loire River; in 2005 this attracted at least 820 pairs. The French Atlantic population was a little over 1000 breeding pairs and about 3000 individuals in 2004-2005 (based on a roost census). There were about 1400 to 1800 pairs in 2007 with more than 5000 individuals. Culling was tested in 2007 and has been carried out at a large scale from 2008; 3000 birds were shot that year, leading to a remaining total of 2500 individuals in February 2009 and a breeding population of about 900 pairs that year.
In Southern France, T. aethiopicus was acclimatized in 1982 within the “African Reserve” at Sigean. They were left free to fly by 1989 and a pair bred in 1991. Observations in natural surroundings became regular from 1995, and in 2000 the species bred in a colony of 8 nests in the wild at Etang de Bages. This colony held 75 pairs in 2004 and about 300 individuals in 2007. Population limitation began in 2007 and fewer than 30 birds remained in the wild in February 2009.

Risk of Introduction

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The risk of introduction is completely linked to zoos. Sometimes individuals escape from captivity, but in general, the birds are allowed to fly freely and can move out of the zoo limits and form feral populations. The use of pinioning or of large aviaries seems indispensable to prevent this.


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In Africa, T. aethiopicus forages in a diversity of open habitats, both wet and dry, including natural grassland but also artificial sites such as dams, sewage works, sites used for washing pigs, dung heaps, refuse dumps and cultivated land, as well as coastal lagoons, intertidal areas and coastal islets (Clark, 1979; A. J. Williams, University of Cape Town, Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, Rondebosch, South Africa, personal communication, 2005). Their nest and roost sites also show a high diversity in Africa, from wetlands and coastal islands to urban parks (review in Brown et al., 1982; Hancock et al., 1992).

In areas where the species has been introduced, the same opportunism is found. Ibises forage in meadows (usually but not only wet meadows, with or without cattle) and rubbish dumps (all year round), and marshes and reedbeds (particularly used in spring and summer). They can also feed in ploughed fields, farmyards and open-air poultry farms. Occasionally small populations can settle in suburban and even urban landscapes. The roost is commonly in trees of different species and nesting colony sites can be in trees, in shrubs or on the ground. T. aethiopicus shows a large tolerance to various landscapes but the presence of water appears essential (Clergeau and Yésou, 2006).

Habitat List

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Inland saline areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Inland saline areas Principal habitat Natural
Estuaries Principal habitat Natural
Lagoons Principal habitat Natural
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Riverbanks Principal habitat Natural
Wetlands Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Principal habitat Natural
Coastal areas Principal habitat Natural
Intertidal zone Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Intertidal zone Principal habitat Natural
Salt marshes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Salt marshes Principal habitat Natural
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The first study is in progress at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Reproductive biology
T. aethiopicus breeds in colonies up to hundreds of pairs in size. The nests contain branches and sticks and are sometimes very close. After the young hatch, sometimes these nests form a large continuous platform. Usually 2-5 eggs are incubated for 28 days (Urban, 1974; Yésou et al., 2006). In Ethiopia, Urban (1974) noted a mean of 2.24 eggs per nest, and 1.06 young per nest just before fledging. In areas of Brittany (France) where the species was introduced, Marion and Marion (1994) and Reeber (S. Reeber, Réserve naturelle du lac de Grand-Lieu, Bouaye, France, unpublished data) noted, respectively, 2.79 and 2.38 eggs per nest and 1.36 and 2.38 young per nest. The possibility of a second brood has not been clearly demonstrated in introduced areas.
Physiology and phenology
T. aethiopicus survives well in Northern Europe when winters are not too harsh. It shows clear adaptability to various habitats from sea coasts to agricultural and urban areas and to various food items, in both native and exotic ranges.
T. aethiopicus is an opportunistic feeder which favours invertebrates (e.g. insects, molluscs, crayfish...) when foraging in meadows and marshes, but also takes larger prey when they are available, including fish, amphibians, eggs and young birds (Clark, 1979; Brown et al., 1982; Clergeau et al., 2010b). Some individuals can specialize as predators at seabird colonies (see ‘Impacts’ section). Feeding on rubbish dumps is general.
T. aethiopicus mixes with other Ciconiiformes in roosts, colonies or feeding areas. In the exotic range, these species are especially little egrets Egretta garzetta, cattle egrets Bubulcus ibis and spoonbills Platalea leucorodia.
Environmental requirements
In South Africa, T. aethiopicus has progressively spread from the coast to the interior using managed agricultural land and numerous water storage basins. It can disperse, depending on rainfall, over several hundreds of kilometres in Angola and Zambia (Harrison et al., 1997). Species with such a capability to occupy a wide niche or to adapt to changing environments are more likely to successfully invade new environments than are specialized species. The fact that feral populations of sacred ibis have begun to settle in the north of Europe indicates a large tolerance to various latitudes and temperatures.


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Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Rattus norvegicus Predator Juvenile not specific No

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The predators of T. aethiopicus are not numerous. Rats (Rattus norvegicus) have been noted in a Mediterranean colony feeding on young or eggs, and the gulls Larus argentatus and Larus michahellis may also do so. However, the spatial concentration of nests in ibis colonies strongly limits predation, which is observed mainly when the majority of adults leave the colony because of a disturbance. Predation on roost sites also seems rare because the layer of droppings on the soil limits the presence of foxes Vulpes vulpes (personal observation: P. Clergeau, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France) and because the birds are not very accessible to ground predators when perched.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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As a first step, birds were transported by plane from native areas where they were captured, such as Kenya, to numerous zoos, especially during the 1970s.

As a second step, the high breeding success in captivity permits numerous exchanges of individuals between zoos.

As a third step, in several cases the birds are allowed to fly freely within the zoo and then settle nearby, for example in Brittany (France), Florida (USA) or Catalonia (Spain), or spread into other regions up to hundreds kilometres away such as in western France (Clergeau and Yésou, 2006).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Botanical gardens and zoosOrigin: East Africa. Introduction: many countries Yes Clergeau and Yésou, 2006; Clergeau et al., 2005; Ottens, 2006
Escape from confinement or garden escapeIn Taiwan, USA, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Canary Islands, Netherlands Yes Clergeau and Yésou, 2006; Clergeau et al., 2005; Herring and Gawlik, 2008; Ottens, 2006

Impact Summary

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Cultural/amenity Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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Economic impact of T. aethiopicus is not documented anywhere. Suspicions of tourism impact could exist in a case where a pine wood has been destroyed by droppings under nest colonies (Island of Morbihan, France). Destruction of the structure of salt pans has been observed in Brittany, involving an increase in human work (Clergeau et al., 2005).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on habitats

The trampling of hundreds of ibises in marshes where they feed or on the soil of islands where they breed can affect the aquatic functioning or the development of vegetation. However, the more important effect is that of the layer of droppings under colony sites, which destroys trees, shrubs and grasses. After the breeding season, some islands show no vegetation for several months.
Impact on biodiversity
Predation on large numbers of some aquatic insects such as dragonfly larvae and amphibians such as frogs is sometimes noted (Clergeau et al., 2010b) and could impact prey populations. The main concern involves the predation on eggs and young of several protected colonies of terns and herons in France (see Yésou and Clergeau, 2005) as has been observed in the native range (Williams and Ward, 2006). In western France, predation has been observed on Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis, the ibises pushing the adults out of their nests and then taking the eggs. Colonies of some tens of incubating pairs of Black Terns Chlidonias niger and Whiskered Terns C. hybrida (also known as C. hybridus) have been destroyed on at least four occasions. Predation has also been reported on single nests of both the Common Tern S. hirundo and the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, and occasionally on young Black Terns and Lapwings Vanellus vanellus (Clergeau et al., 2005). Reeber (2010) reports predation on V. vanellus and the Herring Gull, Larus argentatus.
In southern France, T. aethiopicus has been observed predating nests of Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis. Also, as its numbers increased, it began to compete for nest sites with Cattle Egrets and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, and pushed many pairs of both species out of the colony (Kayser et al. 2005).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Bubulcus ibis (cattle egret)No DetailsFrancePredationYésou and Clergeau, 2005
Chlidonias hybridusLC (IUCN red list: Least concern)FrancePredationYésou and Clergeau, 2005
Chlidonias nigerNational list(s)FrancePredationYésou and Clergeau, 2005
Sterna sandvicensisNo detailsFrancePredationYésou and Clergeau, 2005

Social Impact

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As shown in T. molucca (Epstein et al., 2007), T. aethiopicus is suspected of spreading disease since it frequently forages in rubbish dumps and slurry pits. Studies of different pathogens are in progress at the Veterinary School of Nantes, France.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Infrastructure damage
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Predation
  • Trampling
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Social benefit

T. aethiopicus was introduced to zoos for recreational reasons. It is known for its good acceptance of captivity and good breeding success there.

Uses List

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  • Botanical garden/zoo

Detection and Inspection

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In France, T. aethiopicus is monitored by a census conducted by different bird associations and co-ordinated by P. Yésou of the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Threskiornis melanocephalus (Asian race) has primaries and secondaries tipped grey and the neck is largely white. Threskiornis molucca (Australian race) has primaries and secondaries tipped black and the neck is also white. These two birds have extensive feathering up the neck, with ornamental plumes on the foreneck (Hoyo et al., 1992; Reeber, 2005).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

In several cases (e.g. Portugal and Belgium) the first breeding of T. aethiopicus was not followed by establishment of a feral population. Management of the species (limitation or eradication attempts) has been conducted in Spain and France.

The only method used to prevent introduction is keeping the birds in aviaries. Some zoos have chosen to stop presentation of free birds, but others have not.
Eradication programmes have been conducted by the ONCFS (Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage), mandated by the French government. Nature wardens shoot birds with guns in some monospecific colonies or on rubbish dumps. Eradication has nearly been achieved on the Mediterranean coast (13 individuals remaining in spring 2009) and is in progress in western France (about half of the population was culled in 2008).
Decisions about management of T. aethiopicus have been especially hard. It is a large, easily recognizable, white, and nice-looking species, and benefits from a relatively positive appreciation from tourists and some naturalists. The duration of its presence in Western France (over 20 years) has favoured this, and lack of consensus meant that it took several years for the decision to be made to eradicate it.
In Spain, the authorities rapidly gave authorisation to shoot the ten (tagged) ibises that arrived in Coto Doñana (Andalucia) from France.



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Brown LH; Urban EK; Newman K, 1982. The birds of Africa, Vol 1. London, UK: Academic Press.

Clark RA, 1979. The food of the sacred ibis at Pretoria, Transvaal. Ostrich, 50:104-111.

Clergeau P; Fourcy D; Reeber S; Yésou P, 2010. New but nice? Do alien sacred ibises Threskiornis aethiopicus stabilize nesting colonies of native spoonbills Platalea leucorodia at Grand-Lieu Lake, France? Oryx, 44(4):533-538.

Clergeau P; Reeber S; Bastian S; Yésou P, 2010. Diet of the Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus introduced in metropolitan France: a generalist or specialist species? (Le profil alimentaire de l'ibis sacré Threskiornis aethiopicus introduit en France métropolitaine: espèce généraliste ou spécialiste?) Revue d'Écologie (la Terre et la Vie), 65:331-342.

Clergeau P; Yésou P, 2006. Behavioural flexibility and numerous potential sources of introduction for the sacred ibis: causes of concern in Western Europe? Biological Invasions, 8:1381-1388.

Clergeau P; Yésou P; Chadenas C, 2005. Ibis sacré Threskiornis aethiopicus, état actuel et impacts potentiels des populations introduites en France métropolitaine. Rennes - Nantes, France: INRA-ONCFS.

Epstein JH; McKee J; Shaw P; Hicks V; Micalizzi G; Daszak P; Kilpatrick AM; Kaufman G, 2007. The Australian White ibis Threskiornis molucca as a reservoir of zoonotic and livestock pathogens. Ecohealth, 3:290-298.

Hancock JA; Kushlan JA; Kahl MP, 1992. Storks, ibises and spoonbills of the world. London, UK: Academic Press.

Harrison JA; Allan DG; Underhill LG; Herremans M; Tree AJ; Parker V; Brow CJ, 1997. The atlas of southern African birds. Vol 1. Johannesburg, South Africa: BirdLife South Africa.

Herring G; Call EM; Johnston MD, 2006. A non-indigenous wading bird breeding in the Florida Everglades: the sacred ibis. Florida Field Naturalist, 34:4-8.

Herring G; Gawlik DE, 2008. Potential for successful population establishment of the non-indigenous sacred ibis in the Florida Everglades. Biological Invasions, 10:969-976.

Hoyo J del; Elliott A; Sargatal J, 1992. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol 1. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Juana E de, 2006. Observations of rare birds in Spain, 2004. (Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2004.) Ardeola, 53:163-190.

Kayser Y; Clément D; Gauthier-Clerc M, 2005. The sacred ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus on the French Mediterranean littoral: impact on the avifauna. (L'Ibis sacré Threskiornis aethiopicus sur le littoral méditerranéen français: impact sur l'avifaune.) Ornithos, 12(2):84-86.

Lever C, 2005. Naturalised birds of the world. London, UK: T & AD Poyser.

Marion L; Marion P, 1994. [English title not available]. (Première installation spontanée d'une colonie d'ibis sacré, Threskiornis aethiopicus, au lac de Grand-lieu. Données préliminaires sur la production en jeunes et sur le régime alimentaire.) Alauda, 62:275-280.

Ottens G, 2006. Sacred Ibises in the Netherlands. Birding World, 19:84.

Reeber S, 2005. The pitfalls of identification: the sacred ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus. (Les pièges de l'identification: L'ibis sacré Threskiornis aethiopicus.) Ornithos, 12(2):78-80.

Reeber S, 2010. [English title not available]. (Note de synthèse sur l'Ibis sacré au lac de Grand Lieu.) Unpaginated. [Rapport SPN, janvier 2010.]

Urban EK, 1974. Breeding of sacred ibis at lake Shala, Ethiopia. Ibis, 116(3):265-277.

Vaslin M, 2005. Predation of the sacred ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus on colonies of terns. (Prédation de l'Ibis sacré Threskiornis aethiopicus sur des colonies de sternes et de guifettes.) Ornithos, 12(2):106-109.

Williams AJ; Ward VL, 2006. Sacred ibis and gray heron predation of cape cormorant eggs and chicks; and a review of ciconiiform birds as seabird predators. Waterbirds, 29:321-327.

Yésou P; Calbelguen J; Potiron JL, 2006. Some aspects of the reproduction of the sacred ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus in the Loire estuary. (Quelques aspects de la reproduction de l'Ibis sacré Threskiornis aethiopicus dans l'estuaire de la Loire.) Alauda, 74:421-427.

Yésou P; Clergeau P, 2005. Sacred Ibis: a new invasive species in Europe. Birding World, 18:517-526.

Links to Websites

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DAISIE Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe
French report on ibis (Clergeau et al., 2005)
GB Non-native Species Information Portal
Les espèces invasives en Bretagne


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Germany: African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10, 53113 Bonn,


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14/07/09 Original text by:

Philippe Clergeau, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Dept. Ecol. & Gestion de la Biodiversité, UMR 5173, 55 rue Buffon - CP 51, 75005 Paris, France

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