The Ibis.

The native ibis, with it’s handsome black and white ensemble and long beak, is the picture of grace when in flight. The fly in formation, just like in a movie. Gorgeous things. Are you shaking your head yet? Perhaps picturing the much-maligned “bin chicken” rooting through the rubbish bins in a city lane way? Maybe remembering the time a “tip turkey” nicked off with your sandwich? Here’s the thing, though. The ibis seems to be the latest thing we love to hate, judging by all the memes and songs, but actually, they’re kind of amazing. They’re so much more than the “picnic-wrecking fuck” that this song describes them as.

What’s to love?

So much. Did you know that the ibis is totally old-school when it comes to love? The male has to find a nice high branch and scare off all the other blokes. Then he has to make a lot of noise and carry on like a pork chop until the female deigns to pay attention to him. Then (this is my favourite bit) the male bows to the female and offers her a stick. If she’s keen, she grabs the stick, they preen each other and that’s it! It’s the equivalent of Facebook official after the bow-stick-preen ceremony. Romance is alive and well for these guys and I love that.

But why are they suddenly everywhere?

That is a fair question. Growing up, I don’t remember seeing ibises with anywhere near the frequency that I do now. I saw plenty of birds, but not the trademark bald, black heads, long beaks and white plumage. When I was a kid, we’d go to places that had mangroves and you saw them there. You didn’t see them raiding the rubbish bags behind restaurants. They weren’t popping out of skip bins in lane ways. It wasn’t the humble ibis you had to watch out for in city parks- that was the turf of gulls and hopeful pigeons, not birds that were big enough to be a bit threatening and brave enough to take the vegemite sanga right out of your hand. My, how times have changed.

Now, there are memes and songs dedicated to the pesky urban ibis and it’s totally socially acceptable to hate on them. In fact, in January this year, a guy in Brisbane decided to catch and strangle an ibis. I don’t know what his reasoning was, but he then went on to menace people in a park with the body. And for every response on social media condemning what was a fairly vicious act of animal cruelty, there were comments like these:

But the reality is that the bird everyone wants to hate on has become a pervasive presence in our suburbs and cities because of us.

No more wetlands

Ibises dig living in wetlands. They have that snazzy long beak to help them catch food in marshy areas. They’re into hanging out in trees in their communities. But drought and people have screwed that up for them. Development, pollution and practices like diverting water from inland rivers for irrigation or agriculture have destroyed much of their natural habitat. It’s all well and good to label them “vermin” but we are the reason they are in urban areas. Which leads me to the main reason I love the ibis.

It’s a goddamn survivor.

Another species might not have adapted in the way the ibis has. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t see walk past an ibis making the most of someone’s half-eaten kebab on a Sunday morning and want to pat and cuddle it. But I don’t feel the disgust or hatred that so many people seem to feel. I feel sad because they shouldn’t be in our cities and towns. It’s a huge red flag and I wonder what kind of world our grand-kids will inherit. But the other thing I feel for the ibis? Fucking respect.

Seriously. We have helped to trash their environment so they’ve joined us in ours and managed to make it work.  They don’t have that glossy white plumage they might have had in the wetlands because they’ve been forced to scavenge through human refuse to keep on living. The poor buggers are grubbing through bins and wandering through picnickers in an effort to keep their species going. The ibis is as fucking tough as nails. Evolution in action. There’s a lot to admire right there.

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  • LOL! This is so timely. The kids and I have been chatting about the Ibis and wondering why they have suddenly appeared around the lake where we live in Canberra. Noisy indeed! They all hang out on this island in the middle of the lake (which I have christened “Bird Manhattan”) and they seem to all fight over the one tree (which is obviously a hotel called … wait for it … The Ibis). And they make so much noise at dawn as we’re walking around the lake. Then they all fly off and investigate Canberra and drink loads of bin juice and stuff. They’re pretty cool and total party animals.

  • Since the start of this post, my feelings towards the humble Ibis have changed from borderline hate and extreme annoyance to sympathy and respect. Nature is a wonderful thing when we don’t stuff it up, and although I won’t be inviting an Ibis on to my picnic rug any time soon, I will at least think kind thoughts about them.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I must admit, I don’t see many where we live so I have no ill feelings towards them. It is always easy to blame but when people have started the changes, we must also accept the results. That goes with so many things in life where people only see the small picture, not the large #teamIBOT

  • Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would read such a well informed post about Ibis on your blog! I actually don’t have a problem with them, granted I don’t see them much in our city, but I don’t find them annoying when I’m in the big smoke either. Live and let live I say.

  • I wrote a post a couple of years ago hating on the Ibis. They would poop all over my patio and terrorise my cat, eating her food and chasing other birds away. No animal deserves to be strangled but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with chucking a rubber thong at them 😉

  • Oh god you are so right! I have recently witnessed my first ‘ibis in a skip’ and even took photos. I had never seen them at it before and had not realise this was a regular urban sight. They reminded me of the vultures I saw when I was in Rio de Janeiro!
    Saddened to hear people now view these elegant birds in such a dim light.

  • I still can’t get past the picnic wrecking fuck 🙂 Some friends of mine in the US are fascinated by the Ibis. But you make a good point about survivors in action! I can pretend to respect them for that. Until I see one, think “picnic wrecking fuck” and laugh…

  • Love that you are standing up for the ibis. I don’t mind the bird itself but I really don’t like the poo everywhere, so much poo!

  • Quinton Reid

    And it’s not just ibises (ibisii?). Habitat destruction, food shortages and urban expansion are responsible for many species being displaced. Have you seen all the sulfur-crested cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets? Flying fox populations have been decimated and countless other species are being forced to adapt to new environments. Out my way we now have a resident square-tailed kite, tawny frogmouth and even a barking owl, all previously seen only rarely, if at all. When even I start to notice these things something is clearly wrong.

  • You never saw them over here in SA when I was a kid and I remember being terrorised by them on a visit to Victoria. Now they are all over the place. Their scaly heads are pretty gross but I don’t mind them cruising overhead. They look ridiculous in trees though!

  • Poor old Ibis, I am quite fond of the ones that perch themselves on my front lawn eating grubs at dawn.

  • They used to be around the parks Jacob and I would meet at for lunch when I studied and he worked in the Valley, in the city. Even recently when we went to the GOMA, the Ibis were eyeing off our lunch. They polished off our bucket of chips.

  • There is an Ibis hotel in town. The hotel bar is called “that dirty bird”. Not even kidding.

  • I’ll be honest I’m one of those people who dislikes ibises. But I also think we are to blame for them overpopulating the burbs. Mr Imperfect’s family in Strathfield gets ibises in their backyard…they used to bully his dog when Oscar was alive.