Giant ibis (Thaumatibis gigantea)

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Giant ibis
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Giant ibis fact file

Giant ibis description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCiconiiformes
FamilyThreskiornithidae
GenusThaumatibis (1)

This huge ibis has a large, curved bill and a distinctive repeated, loud, ringing call sounding like ‘a-leurk a-leurk’, mainly used at dawn and dusk. The adult is dark with a naked, grey head and upper neck. There are dark bands across the back of the head and shoulder area and the pale silvery-grey wing tips also have black crossbars. The beak is yellowish-brown, the legs are orange, and the eyes are dark red. Juveniles have short black feathers on the back of the head down to the neck. Their bills are shorter and their eyes are brown (2).

Size
Length: 102 – 106 cm (2)
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Giant ibis biology

With so few birds remaining, and no current research projects focussing on this species, not much is known of the breeding biology of the giant ibis. It is thought to nest in trees, and is known to wander widely in response to seasonal water-levels and human disturbance. Individuals, pairs or small groups of birds feed together, probing into soft mud, or foraging on dry land during the dry season. They consume mainly invertebrates, particularly locusts and cicadas, as well as crustaceans, small amphibians, small reptiles (2), and seeds (4).

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Giant ibis range

With a remaining population of fewer than 250 birds, the giant ibis is found only in northern Cambodia and the extreme southern tip of Laos. It was previously found in southern Vietnam and southeast and peninsular Thailand, but is now extinct in these countries (2).

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Giant ibis habitat

Primarily inhabits the northern Cambodian open dipterocarp forest. This bird feeds in wetlands (more abundant during the rainy season) but also in the grasslands during the dry season (3).

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Giant ibis status

The giant ibis is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Giant ibis threats

Continuing deforestation and wetland drainage for agriculture has led to widespread habitat loss for the giant ibis, although much suitable but unoccupied habitat still remains. This suggests that hunting and human disturbance may be the most serious threats to the giant ibis (2).

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Giant ibis conservation

The giant ibis gains official protection from its presence in Xe Pian National Biodiversity Area in Laos, and in Lomphat Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia. Both Laos and Cambodia are running a campaign to reduce the hunting of large water birds and the giant ibis is illustrated on public awareness material. Surveys to monitor the giant ibis’ population and distribution have been proposed, as well as research to discover their breeding habits and requirements (2). The creation of further protected areas has been recommended (2), and captive breeding will be considered. Crucially, gun ownership must be further controlled, following the success of such schemes in Laos (4).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the giant ibis see:

  • BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Crustacea
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Dipterocarp
Trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae: resinous trees that are found in the old world tropics.
Invertebrate
Animals with no backbone.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (January, 2005)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3800&m=0
  3. Coulter, M. (2007) Pers. comm.
  4. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
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Image credit

Giant ibis  
Giant ibis

© Ron Hoff

Ron Hoff
Clinton
Tennessee
United States of America
ronhoff511@gmail.com

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