Anatomy of an ibis
Ibis anatomy

According to urban mythology, Sydney’s Sacred Ibis are actually a scary mutation of the seagull.

Australian seagull which evolved into an Ibis
Oh my, evolution has definitely begun here..

The story goes that over succeeding generations, one strain of gull became larger, more aggressive, and far more athletic, until…..voila!;

Sydney Sacred Ibis
Evolution complete.

Instead of lolling about at the Sydney Cricket Ground as seagulls do, ibis roam the city’s parks mugging defenseless tourists. Some say the curve in their beaks is the result of constant entanglements with the straps of Nikon cameras.

They are always hungry, and oddly enough those beaks have evolved to the length of six inches, the exact depth of a MacDonalds’ fries packet.  Fast food is definitely their favourite, but the old-fashioned  packed lunch in a  paper bag is always  scoffed rather than scoffed at.

Sacred Ibis in Hyde Park, Sydney
I do like a packed lunch.

Here is an old boy enjoying dinner out in Hyde Park.   As you can see, tying up your trash is no defence against a bird with a beak like a bloomin’ bayonet.

Urban Ibis

There is a lot of prejudice against urban ibis. They are despised, and labelled as  dumpster divers and flying rats. The jokes and humiliations are endless.

Sometimes confrontations between the birds and other Sydneysiders reach crisis point;

Urban Ibis in Sydney
One step closer and I’ll shoot!

No wonder a few  urban ibis have become political agitators. I spotted one door knocking around the city to demand a fair go.

Ibis in Sydney City
Campaigning on behalf of my fellow, marginalized Ibis mates.

Ibis spend a lot of time walking about and snacking. Just as well really, because  when they take to the air there can be awful consequences. I have cropped the photo below out of respect for the feathered victim, and for my readers’ feelings.

Plane hits ibis
A bad outcome for both plane and ibis.

Despite such tragic incidents, the ibis population continues to thrive. The birds build a rather unruly nest of stick in a tree.

Sacred ibis nest
The life cycle of an ibis begins!  (Photo credit  Ruth Hohrmann)

Of course baby ibis are cute..well sort of.

Sacred Ibis chicks
More little muggers.

When they get older they trail around after mum squawking,  ‘I want fries….I want fries!’  Eventually the little blighters  wear her down.

Hungry Ibis Chick
I’m starving!
Parent ibis feeding chick
Ooh, here you are then. Now be quiet!

In their own minds, these big birds  are the kings of the city.

Sacred Ibis in Sydney
Ruling over Sydney

I think the fellow below was being employed by the Botanical Gardens as mascot for it’s current exhibition on carnivorous plants. He was standing at the entrance as ‘click bait’.

Yes, I can look majestic.

For those who are part of the Ibis Appreciation Society, here is the perfect gift, courtesy of my fellow bird lover, Evie Hanlon. I would urge a little caution about carrying it through a Sydney park though.

Ibis shopping bag
Ibis fashion statement. (copyright Evie Hanlon.)
Iis Having drinks before dinner
Pose, I said…but there is always one smart…a***!

You know, despite all I have written,  I wouldn’t worry too much about  Mr Ibis. There is a far more alarming urban bird in Sydney. Ever heard of the Australian Brush Turkey??


  1. I smiled all the way through your observations and write up. Great piece. ‘Impressed’ with the picture of the casualty and the plane!

    • Pauline

      The poor old ibis is much maligned, Marcia. I find them quite entertaining, but I might change my mind if one steals my chips!

  2. On a driving tour up the southern coast of Queensland, I saw urban ibises scavenging around the feet of tourists in an open air restaurant. They were everywhere. I felt sorry for them as most people chased them away or even used physical actions to move them on. Maybe if they had had feeding stations further away from the public where people could leave their scraps it may have been cleaner or more hygienic. Not only were there Ibises, but they must have attracted farmyard ducks and other bird life. Now, anyone with a farmyard background would know how awful it is to tramp on top of where a duck has released its waste products. I’m in two minds about the plight of feeding urban ibises by leaving our scraps in easily accessed bins for them, and thus, to continue in their self-destruction of their digestive tracts.

    • Pauline

      It’s a real dilemma, Heather. They belong in the inland wetlands, but climate change and other factors have brought them into towns and cities. Experts say they are thriving on their higher protein diet, but it doesn’t seem healthy for them in the long term. They are also a big problem on land-fill rubbish sites.

  3. I love a good urban myth, Pauline. Very entertaining story, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.