Australian White Ibis

Australian White Ibis

Australian ibis, White ibis, Sheep bird, Bin chicken, Dump chook, Tip turkey

Threskiornis molucca
Population size
Life Span
28 yrs
1.4-2.5 kg
65-75 cm
110-125 cm

The Australian white ibis is a large wading bird native to Australia. It has a predominantly white plumage with a bare, black head, long downcurved bill, and black legs. Due to its increasing presence in the urban environment and its habit of rummaging in garbage, the Australian white ibis has acquired a variety of colloquial names such as "tip turkey" and "bin chicken", and in recent years has become an icon of Australia's popular culture, regarded with glee by some and passionate revulsion by others.


Australian white ibises are widespread in eastern, northern and south-western Australia. Most adult birds are sedentary but populations that live in south-western Australia are partially migratory. Australian white ibises inhabit lagoons, estuaries, marshy wetlands, often near open grasslands and have become common in city parks, gardens and rubbish dumps in the urban areas.

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Australian white ibises can be seen singly, however, they are social birds; they often roost in trees with other birds like spoonbills or herons, and breed in colonies. Australian white ibises are active during the day and feed by walking and wading along the shore probing for food. The most favored foods such as crayfish and mussels ibises obtain by digging with their long bill. Australian white ibises will also scavenge on garbage dumps and are even known to snatch sandwiches from picnickers. These large birds communicate vocally and their call is described as a long croak.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Australian white ibises are carnivores; they feed on both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates and human scraps. The most favored prey items include fish, frogs, crayfish, mussels, shellfish, crabs and insects.

Mating Habits

August-November in the south, February-May in the north
21-23 days
48 days
2-3 eggs

Australian white ibises are monogamous and form long-lasting pair bonds. Breeding season varies with the location within Australia, generally August to November in the south, and February to May, after the wet season, in the north. Australian white ibises nest in large colonies, often near other waterbirds such as egrets, herons, spoonbills or cormorants. Their nest is a shallow dish-shaped platform of sticks, grasses or reeds, located in trees and generally near a body of water such as a river, swamp or lake. The female lays 2 to 3 dull white eggs which are then incubated for 21-23 days. Hatchlings are altricial; they are naked and helpless at birth, and it takes them around 48 days to fledge. Young Australian white ibises reach reproductive maturity in three years of age.


Population threats

There are no major threats facing the Australian white ibis at present.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Australian white ibis total population size. According to the ABC Science resource the total population size of the species in Sydney is around 5,000 individuals (about 800 are juveniles). Currently, Australian white ibises are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Australian white ibis is known as mardungurra among the Yindjibarndi people of the central and western Pilbara (a large region in the north of Western Australia).
  • Australian white ibises have a long and curved bill which they use to get prey from the mud. Nostrils are located at the base of the bill and this allows the birds to breathe while their bill is submerged in the water.
  • Australian white ibises have bare spots on the breast which become deep red in color during the breeding season.


1. Australian White Ibis on Wikipedia -
2. Australian White Ibis on The IUCN Red List site -

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