Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


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EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine
Listed migratory - Bonn, CAMBA
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
 
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Rare (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): Rare species: June 2011 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Least Concern (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Near Threatened (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Plegadis falcinellus [991]
Family Threskiornithidae:Ciconiiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Linnaeus,1766)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Plegadis falcinellus

Common name: Glossy Ibis

Other names: Black Curlew

Conventionally accepted as Plegadis falcinellus (Christidis & Boles 2008).

The Glossy Ibis is the smallest ibis known in Australia. The neck is reddish-brown and the body is a bronze-brown with a metallic iridescent sheen on the wings. The Glossy Ibis has a distinctive long, downwards curved bill that is olive-brown in colour. The facial skin is blue-grey with a white line that extends around the eyes. The eyes, legs and feet are brown (Birds Australia 2010b). Sexes are similar in plumage, but the male is larger in size. The average length of a Glossy Ibis is 55–65 cm, with a wingspan of 80–95 cm, and weight of approximately 500–800 grams (Hancock et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

During the breeding season, plumage colour intensifies to a rich chestnut on the neck, mantle, shoulders and under parts. A purple-green sheen occurs on the head, upperparts, tail and wings. The facial skin turns pale blue with courtship, and fades to dark purple after the courting period (Hancock et al. 1992).

Juveniles have similar dark plumage to adults. Nestlings have a pink bill which gradually turns olive-brown starting from the tip (Hancock et al. 1992).

The Glossy Ibis is found singularly, in pairs or in small flocks. Large flocks are also occasionally large, for example the largest was about 60 000 birds in the Alligator Rivers region, Northern Territory (Morton et al. 1989). The Glossy Ibis is found in the company of other ibis such as the Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis) or Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca). Breeding is colonial and often with or near other ibis, herons and egrets (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Within Australia, the Glossy Ibis is generally located east of the Kimberley in Western Australia and Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The species is also known to be patchily distributed in the rest of Western Australia. The species is rare or a vagrant in Tasmania (Beehler et al. 1986; Coates & Bishop 1997; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Globally, the Glossy Ibis is estimated to occupy an area of approximately 19 400 000 km² (BirdLife International 2010c).

Worldwide, the Glossy Ibis occurs in eastern North America, from the Caribbean region to Europe, Russia and Siberia, through central Asia, south of the Sahara in Africa, Pakistan, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia (Beehler et al. 1986; Coates & Bishop 1997; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The species is scarce throughout south-east Asia and is considered a vagrant to New Zealand (often in winter) (Beehler et al. 1986; Coates & Bishop 1997; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The population of Glossy Ibis within Australia is estimated to be approximately 12% of the species' total population (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Within Australia, the Glossy Ibis has been included in annual aerial surveys by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service since 1983. However, the species' erratic utilisation of remote inland areas and northern sites has prevented complete analysis of monitoring data (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

The population is estimated to be between 1 200 000–3 200 000 worldwide (BirdLife International 2010c).

The Glossy Ibis' preferred habitat for foraging and breeding are fresh water marshes at the edges of lakes and rivers, lagoons, flood-plains, wet meadows, swamps, reservoirs, sewage ponds, rice-fields and cultivated areas under irrigation. The species is occasionally found in coastal locations such as estuaries, deltas, saltmarshes and coastal lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Hancock et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Within Australia, the largest contiguous areas of prime habitat is inland and northern floodplains. The Glossy Ibis is commonly in largest numbers in drying Top End grass/sedge swamps and Channel Country grass/forb meadows. The species is sometimes recorded in wooded swamps, artificial wetlands (such as irrigated fields), and in mangroves for breeding (Chatto 2000; Marchant & Higgins 1990). The species may retreat to permanent wetlands and/or coastal areas (including tidal wetlands) during drought (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Glossy Ibis roost in trees or shrubs usually near, but sometimes far, from water bodies (Brown et al. 1982; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Age Structure

Glossy Ibis are known to live for approximately eight years (Scott 1997), though the oldest record of the species is 14 years and 3 months (Clapp et al. 1982). Like other waterbirds, the species is likely to be sexually mature by one or two years of age (Scott 1997).

Breeding

Glossy Ibis breed from mid spring to the end of summer. Reproduction may extend to September to April if there is persistent food resources at breeding sites (Birds Australia 2010b; Chatto 2000; Jaensch & Bellchambers 1997; Marchant & Higgins 1990). In some areas, breeding is said to coincide with annual rains (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Three to six eggs are laid. Both adults care for young who fledge in approximately 25–28 days (Hancock et al 1992). Chicks will interact with chicks from nearby nests from approximately ten days of age. Once fledged, adults remain feeding young for several weeks (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Nesting

The species nests in mixed species colonies, either in small groups (from 5–100 pairs in Africa) (Brown et al. 1982) or in large aggregations of thousands of pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The Glossy Ibis has low breeding site fidelity and will inhabit new habitat if it becomes available (Melvin et al 1999). The nest is a platform of twigs and vegetation usually positioned less than one metre above water (occasionally up to 7 m) in tall dense stands of emergent vegetation (e.g. reeds or rushes), low trees or bushes (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The nest is often lined with aquatic vegetation (Birds Australia 2010b).

Australian breeding habitat types include wooded and shrubby swamps in the semi-arid and arid regions of the Northern Territory and Queensland. This includes Cooba (Acacia stenophylla), Eucalyptus/lignum swamps (Muehlenbeckia florulenta) of the Murray-Darling Basin and in Melaleuca/reed swamps at near-coastal breeding colonies in the south. Breeding has once been recorded in mangroves in the Northern Territory (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Australian Breeding Locations

The Glossy Ibis breeds at only a limited number of locations within Australia. Most records are from the following areas:

  • Murray Darling Basin in northern New South Wales (NSW)
  • western Riverina of NSW/Victoria
  • from wider south-east South Australia
  • Channel Country of Queensland/South Australia (wetlands of the Bulloo, Diamantina and Georgina River systems, occasionally also Cooper Creek)
  • and the lower Ord/Keep Rivers of Western Australia and the Northern Territory (Beehler et al. 1986; Chatto 2000; Coates & Bishop 1997; Jaensch & Bellchambers 1997; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

There are also isolated records of small breeding colonies elsewhere in eastern Australia and in the south-west of Western Australia. Breeding within Australia is outside tropical areas, except for several records in the wetlands of the Northern Territory and the lower Ord/Keep Rivers of Western Australia and Northern territory (Beehler et al. 1986; Chatto 2000; Coates & Bishop 1997; Jaensch & Bellchambers 1997; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Diet

Glossy Ibis feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates/insects such as freshwater snails, mussels, crabs and crayfish. The species will also, however, eat fish, frogs and tadpoles, dryland invertebrates (such as beetles and grasshoppers), lizards, small snakes and nestling birds (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Gowland 1988; Marchant & Higgins 1990; Vestjens 1977).

Seeds of aquatic plants may also be eaten, including commercial rice which is recorded as a major diet item in parts of northern Australia (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Gowland 1988; Marchant & Higgins 1990; Vestjens 1977).

Feeding

The species feeds in very shallow water (Hancock et al. 1992), probing the water and mud with their long, curved bill, walking slowly and sedately (Birds Australia 2010b; Marchant & Higgins 1990).

Global Movement

The Glossy Ibis is considered migratory and nomadic (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant & Higgins 1990; Snow & Perrins 1998). The bird undergoes post-breeding dispersal (del Hoyo et al. 1992) with an average dispersal of 1142 km from its natal site (Melvin et al 1999). The birds may travel on a broad front through Africa and across the Sahara in flocks of over 100 individuals (Brown et al. 1982). During the winter or dry seasons, the species usually forages in small flocks (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Hancock et al. 1992) of up to 30 individuals (Brown et al. 1982).

Australian Movement

Within Australia, the species moves in response to good rainfalls, expanding its range, however the core breeding areas used are within the Murray-Darling Basin region of NSW and Victoria, the Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales, and in southern Queensland. The Glossy Ibis often moves north in autumn, then return south to the main breeding areas in spring and summer (Birds Australia 2010b). Regular migration to locations outside of Australia is also suspected but has not been confirmed (Marchant & Higgins 1990).

From a distance the Glossy Ibis is black and may be confused with many species of ibis or dark coloured birds. For example, the species appears to be similar to some Curlew species but the ibis carries itself more upright in flight and has longer wings and legs (Hancock et al. 1992).

Identified Threats

Wetland destruction or degradation is the major threat to the Glossy Ibis. Activities including water diversion and drainage (restricting areas of shallow water), irrigation, and hydroelectric power production damage suitable habitat for foraging and breeding. Such alterations of the Macquarie Marshes resulted in a failure of Glossy Ibis to nest there (Balian et al. 2002; Birds Australia 2010b; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Hancock et al. 1992; Marchant and Higgins 1990; Snow & Perrins 1998).

Clearing, grazing, burning, increased salinity, groundwater extraction and invasion by exotic plants and fish species are also threats to the species through habitat modification.

The bird is also threatened locally in some areas by hunting and pesticides (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Marchant and Higgins 1990; Snow & Perrins 1998).

Potential Threats

Human disturbance of waterbirds is a possible threat. A study by Burger & Gochfeld (1998) identified disturbance in foraging patterns of Glossy Ibis and four other waterbirds in a well frequented wildlife refuge in the United States of America.

The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville & Shortridge 2006).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation by weeds Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006tr) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition, predation and/or habitat degradation by fish Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006tr) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:unspecified Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006tr) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Alteration of hydrological regimes and water quality Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006tr) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Dams and Water Management/Use:Changes in hydrology including habitat drainage Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006tr) [Internet].
Natural System Modifications:Natural System Modifications:Indirect and direct habitat loss due to human activities Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006tr) [Internet].

Balian, L.V., M.G. Ghasabian, M.S. Adamian & D. Klem, Jr (2002). Changes in the waterbird community of the Lake Sevan-Lake Gilli area, Republic of Armenia: a case for restoration. Biological Conservation. 106:157-163.

Beehler, B.M., T.K. Pratt & D.A. Zimmerman (1986). Field guide to the birds of New Guinea. Princeton, USA: Princeton University Press.

BirdLife International (2010c). Species factsheet: Plegadis falcinellus. [Online]. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org. [Accessed: 20-Oct-2010].

Birds Australia (2010b). Birds in Backyards- Glossy Ibis factsheet. [Online]. Available from: http://birdsinbackyards.net/species/Plegadis-falcinellus. [Accessed: 22-Oct-2010].

Brown, L., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa. Volume 1. London, Academic Press.

Burger, J. & M. Gochfeld (1998). Effects of ecotourists on bird behaviour at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Environmental Conservation. 25(1):13-21.

Chatto, R. (2000). Waterbird breeding colonies in the Top End of the Northern Territory. Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory Technical Report. 69.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Clapp, R.B., M.K. Klimkiewicz & J.H. Kennard (1982). Longevity records of North American birds: Gaviidae through Alcidae. Journal of Field Ornithology. 53:81-124.

Coates, B.J. & K.D. Bishop (1997). A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea Sulawesi, The Moluccas and Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia. Alderley, Queensland: Dove Publications.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliot & J. Sargatal (1992). Ostrich to Ducks. In: Handbook of the Birds of the World. 1. Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Gowland, P.N. (1988). RAOU Microfiche. Moonee Ponds, RAOU.

Hancock, J.A., J.A. Kushlan & M.P. Kahl (1992). Storks, Ibises and Spoonbills of the world. London, Academic Press.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2010). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. [Online]. Available from: http://www.iucnredlist.org.

Jaensch, R. & K. Bellchambers (1997). Waterbird conservation values of ephemeral wetlands of the Barkly Tablelands, Northern Territory. Report to Australian Heritage Commission and Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Teritory.

Marchant, S. & P.J. Higgins (1990). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume One - Ratites to Ducks. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Melville, D.S. & K.F. Shortridge (2006). Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G & C. Galbraith & D. Stroud, eds. Waterbirds around the world. Page(s) 432-438. Edinburgh, UK: The Stationary Office.

Melvin, S.L., D.E. Gawlik & T. Scharff (1999). Long-term movement patterns for seven species of wading birds. Waterbirds. The International Journal of Waterbird Biology. 22(3):411-416.

Morton, S.R., K.G. Brennan & M.D. Armstrong (1989). Distribution and Abundance of Waterbirds in the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Territory. Volume 1.

Scott, A. (1997). Relationships between waterbird ecology and river flows in the Murray-Darling Basin. CSIRO Technical report No. 5/97. [Online]. Available from: http://www.clw.csiro.au/publications/technical97/tr5-97.pdf. [Accessed: 09-Nov-2010].

Snow, D.W. & C.M. Perrins (1998). The birds of the western Palearctic. Consise Edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Vestjens, W.J.M. (1977). Technical Memorandum Division of Wildlife Research CSIRO Australia. 12.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Plegadis falcinellus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Thu, 21 Aug 2014 18:01:41 +1000.