NORTHERN BALD IBIS

(WALDRAPP IBIS)

Geronticus eremita

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RANGE: Morocco and Syria. Once widespread in North Africa and northwards into Europe to the Alps. A very rare accidental migrant bird to Middle East now where it was once common.

HABITAT: Cliffs and coastlines.

SIZE: 75 cms

DIET: Insects and small reptiles

CONSERVATION STATUS: Critically Endangered. Climate change, hunting and pesticides may be the cause.

NOTES: In Egypt once known as "crested ibis"  or "crested akh-bird" (not to be confused with the Egyptian "sacred ibis" which was a different species). Their image appears in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and tomb art. The lowered neck crest, with a little imagination, is reminiscent of ancient Egyptian headdress. Jersey Zoo acquired two birds in 1972. The colony has bred successfully and this combined with other initiatives  around the world means that the birds future, in captivity at least, seems secure.

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"In the case of the Waldrapp, its future in the wilds is, to say the least, grim and there seems little chance of its survival. It is a medium sized ibis with a long curved beak, sombre black plumage that flashes irridescent purple and green when the light strikes it, a bare reddish coloured face and a strange crest of long feathers on the back of its head, which makes it look as though it is wearing a feather wig, that has slipped back, revealing its bald forehead."

THE STATIONARY ARK © Gerald Durrell 1976

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This way, baldie

By Graham Tibbetts

Reproduced from The Daily Telegraph 26/08/2003

Scientists attempting to revive the fortunes of a bird that died out from Europe more than 400 years ago are using microlight aircraft to teach it how to migrate.The northern bald ibis, which was wiped out on the Continent by hunters in the 16th century, is now so rare that only two colonies exist in North Africa.

A project is under way to reintroduce them to the Austrian Alps, but experts are concerned at their apparent inability to move to warmer climes for the winter.

A northern bald ibis They decided to show the birds the way by training them to follow microlights and leading them to southern Tuscany, where the valleys and cliffs provide feeding and roosting sites.

The 21 zoo-bred ibises left Windischgarten last week to begin their two-week journey.

Johannes Fritz, the project manager, who is flying one of the microlights, said: "This unique project is the only means by which these remarkable birds can possibly make a comeback in Europe. With the world population of known fully wild birds confined to just 85 pairs in Morocco and a very few pairs recently discovered in Syria, there is no prospect of Europe being re-colonised naturally."

Scientists at Austria's Konrad Lorenz research station realised a bald ibis comeback was possible because, although on the verge of extinction in the wild, the species breeds readily in captivity and birds from their semi-captive colony showed abilities to fly long distances.

However, Geronticus eremita, which is largely an insect eater, cannot survive alpine winters, and so it is vital that they migrate to a warmer climate.

Kurt Kotrschal, who is leading the ground team, said: "There have been some early problems, such as losing radio contact with the microlights and the pilots losing sight of the dark-coloured birds against the forest background. But when the pilots turned back to the starting place the ibises followed them. It is very impressive seeing these magnificent birds flying in V-formation behind the microlights. Although there is still a long way to go, we have confidence that this will succeed."

At the two existing wild colonies, the 85 pairs at Souss-Massa National Park, near Agadir, raised 100 young this summer, while Asyria's tiny nesting group reared seven.

Dead as a dodo Hunters shoot one of five remaining birds

By Louise Gray

Reproduced from The Daily Telegraph 25/09/2009

One of only five Northern Bald Ibises in the Middle East has been killed by hunters.

The bird used to be found across southern and central Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and features in the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt.

However, hunting and loss of habitat have left a handful struggling to survive.

A female which was tagged in a satellite tracking project led by BirdLife International, was migrating across the deserts of Saudi Arabia to north-east Africa when it was shot illegally.

Eng Ali Hamoud, of the Syrian Desert Commission, said the species could soon be wiped out in the Middle East.


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