Family Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)

Least Concern

African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)


French: Ibis sacré German: Heiliger Ibis Spanish: Ibis sagrado
Other common names: Sacred Ibis

Tantalus aethiopicus


, 1790,

“Aethiopia” = ? Egypt


Normally considered conspecific with T. bernieri; differs in dark brown vs whitish or pale blue iris (3); conspicuous black wingtips (2); purplish-slate  vs bluish-slate tertials (1); and differently structured ornamental neck-sacs and different display (2)#R. Also closely related to T. melanocephalus and T. moluccus, and in past all were occasionally considered conspecific. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

Africa S of Sahara, also SE Iraq; formerly Egypt.

Feral populations in Europe (France, Italy)#R.

Descriptive notes

65–89 cm; c. 1530 g; wingspan 112–124 cm. Thickest-billed of Threskiornis. Primaries and secondaries tipped black; has patch of bare red skin on... read more


Sometimes gives harsh croaking notes in flight, but is otherwise generally silent away from... read more


Very varied; mainly margins of inland freshwater wetlands, sewage works, grasslands, cultivated... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly insects including grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and aquatic beetles; also crustaceans, worms, molluscs, fish, frogs, lizards, and... read more


Often starts during or shortly after rains, but in flooded areas also lays in dry season; e.g. clutches initiated Mar, May–Sept in... read more


Nomadic or migratory. Movements of several hundred kilometres to breed during rains; birds N of... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and common to very common over much of sub-Saharan Africa, with colonies of up to 2000 pairs and an estimated population... read more

Recommended citation

Matheu, E., del Hoyo, J., Christie, D.A., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 13 November 2018).