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Glossy Ibis
(Plegadis falcinellus)

Glossy Ibis

General description

The Glossy Ibis is a mid-sized, slender ibis with dark chestnut head, neck and shoulders. The rest of the plumage has a metallic purple or green sheen. Non-breeding plumage is duller.

Juveniles have a dull brown head and neck and generally duller plumage without the sheen of the adults.

Unlike herons, ibises fly with necks outstretched, their flight being graceful and often in V formation.

Sounds made by this rather quiet ibis include a variety of croaks and grunts, including a hoarse grrrr made when breeding.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Plegadis falcinellus

Common names:
Glossy Ibis (English)
Glansibis (Afrikaans)

Roberts VII english name:
Glossy Ibis

Roberts VII scientific name:
Plegadis falcinellus

Ibises and Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)

Further information



The diet of the glossy ibis is variable according to the season and is very dependent on what is available.

Prey includes adult and larval insects such as aquatic beetles, dragonflies, damselflies, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and caddisflies, Annelida including leeches, molluscs (e.g. snails and mussels), crustaceans (e.g. crabs and crayfish) and occasionally fish, amphibians, lizards, small snakes and nestling birds.

Glossy ibises undertake dispersal movements after breeding and are very nomadic. The more northerly populations are fully migratory and travel on a broad front, for example across the Sahara Desert. Populations in temperate regions breed during the local spring, while tropical populations nest to coincide with the rainy season.

Nesting is often in mixed-species colonies. When not nesting, flocks of over 100 individuals may occur on migration, and during the winter or dry seasons the species is usually found foraging in small flocks.

Glossy ibises often roost communally at night in large flocks, with other species, occasionally in trees which can be some distance from wetland feeding areas.

The nest is usually a platform of twigs and vegetation positioned at least 1 m above water, sometimes up to 7 m in tall, dense stands of emergent vegetation, low trees or bushes.

3 to 4 eggs (occasionally 5) are laid, and are incubated by both male and female birds for between 20 and 23 days.

The young can leave the nest after about 7 days, but the parents continue to feed them for another 6 or 7 weeks.

The young fledge in about 28 days.

Natural distribution:
This is a generally uncommon resident in South Africa, with both sedentary and nomadic populations.

On a global scale, this is the most widespread ibis species, breeding in scattered sites in warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Atlantic and Caribbean regions of the Americas.

It is thought to have originated in the Old World and spread naturally from Africa to northern South America in the 19th century, from where it spread to North America. This species is mostly migratory and most European birds winter in Africa.

Glossy ibises feed in very shallow water and nest in freshwater or brackish wetlands with tall dense stands of emergent vegetation such as reeds, papyrus or rushes) and low trees or bushes.

They show a preference for marshes at the margins of lakes and rivers but can also be found at lagoons, flood-plains, wet meadows, swamps, reservoirs, sewage ponds, paddies and irrigated farmland. It is less commonly found in coastal locations such as estuaries, deltas, salt marshes and coastal lagoons.

Preferred roosting sites are normally in large trees which may be distant from the feeding areas.

The glossy ibis is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Glossy ibises are threatened by wetland habitat degradation and loss through drainage, increased salinity, groundwater extraction and invasion by exotic plants.

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