Australian White Ibis

The Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) is a native Australian bird and is protected under State Wildlife Legislation (Nature Conservation Act 1992). It is a serious offence to harm an ibis.

The ibis plays an important role in natural pest management as it preys on small insects and grubs. While increasing population must be managed, their long-term conservation is necessary for maintaining the variety of all plants and animals. 

Appearance

Ibis are fairly large and grow up to 75 centimetres in length. They have:

  • long curved black beaks
  • white bodies with black feathers near the tail
  • pink to pinkish-black legs
  • a naked and black head and neck, with pink bands on the nape.

Habitat

Their usual habitat is swampy or water-covered ground, but they are also common in grasslands, wetlands, parks, beaches and mudflats. Their diet includes crustaceans, insects, frogs, fish and snails. Because they are an adaptable species, they are also found in urban areas where they may become aggressive and intimidating to humans.

Problems caused by the ibis

The availability of food scraps at parks, public areas and industrial waste bins allow ibis to become dependent on artificial sources of food. This causes their numbers to increase unnaturally. Therefore, they have become a nuisance to local residents and impact negatively on biodiversity in some situations.

Large numbers of roosting and nesting ibis may damage native vegetation and affect protected native wildlife. They may add unnatural amounts of nutrients into the ecosystem through faeces, and discarded eggs. This impacts on water quality and facilitates scavenger species such as foxes.

Where they occur in large numbers in public areas, ibis pose a potential health risk to humans as they may transmit disease such as salmonellosis. Too many ibis may reduce the recreational value of parks and public areas, the main issues of concern are smell, noise, unsightliness and defecation. They may also harass and occasionally attack humans for food.

What Council is doing

Brisbane City Council has adopted ‘working towards a natural balance’ as the principle in controlling the ibis population. One way to achieve this is to restrict the artificial food supplies to ibis to control their numbers to a natural level. For this Council is doing the following:

  • installing covered ibis-proof litter bins throughout the city
  • erecting signs in public eating areas discouraging people from feeding ibis
  • implementing a bird management program in problem urban areas
  • adopting a coordinated approach to ibis management with neighbouring Councils.

What you can do

To help reduce the numbers of ibis at your property:

  • do not feed ibis or leave scraps of food or rubbish lying around, and ensure that garbage bin lids are kept closed, particularly industrial waste bins
  • reduce waste disposal where possible through recycling, and remove water sources and pet food from the backyard
  • shine a torch at the birds when they appear to be settling down for the night, spotlighting on a regular basis may discourage ibis from returning to the area. Do not use this method when ibis are nesting, usually between September and April
  • do not harm or harass the birds
  • do not disturb the birds when there are fledglings in the nest
  • plant native trees instead of exotic palms, which they find desirable for nesting and roosting
  • remove weedy vines from trees as these may provide further support for nests, avoid railings which provide perching opportunities or design them so they are not attractive to birds to perch on (e.g. flat top or adding cable ties may deter them)
  • reduce access to water, but if pool areas or water features are desired you could:
    • use a pool cover
    • reduce areas for sitting/perching
    • install specific water filtration systems that aid in removing pollutants
    • consider natural products that may deter ibis (e.g. they have a sticky feel that ibis do not like to walk on, or a smell that ibis may find unpleasant).

More information

To find out more information about ibis, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Last updated:10 May 2019