We have a small flock of Waldrapp ibis that can be found in the duck ponds at the bottom of the Zoo. Look out for them sitting up in their nest boxes and performing courtship bows from March, and the grey-headed youngsters fledging from the nests from May.
Throughout the year you may see the birds using their long curved beaks to probe the soil for bugs and grubs, and on a sunny day you may see the birds opening their wings and tilting towards the sun in order to sun-bathe.
They can be found in the ibis enclosure near the African hunting dogs
The waldrapp ibis are part of the European Endangered Species breeding programme.
Waldrapp ibis (Geronticus eremita) are a large glossy black species found nesting on cliff faces and foraging on open grasslands. They are also known as Northern bald ibis.
Waldrapp ibis have a bare head and neck, which are red in colour apart from a black top. Blueish-purple feathers cover the rest of the body and are long and glossy with a metallic green tone. The upper wing-coverts are a glossy purple-red and the long curved beak is also red.
They are a social species normally foraging and nesting in large flocks, for lizards and beetles. Their nests are made from loose branches lined with grass and placed on the cliff ledge or cave. Females will lay two to four eggs per clutch.
This species has experienced a severe decline in numbers over the past 30 years, and wild Waldrapp ibis are still in a lot of trouble. The majority of wild birds are found in Morocco, where they have a degree of protection, and the population there appears to have stabilised. However, this species was once found right around the Mediterranean sea and up into the Alps. There are also tiny remnant populations in Turkey and Syria.
The reasons behind this decline are poorly understood. It is possible that in the past it has been as a result of natural causes, however in recent times this more likely to be linked to hunting and persecution, disturbance at the breeding sites, and the loss of suitable habitat. Pesticide poisoning has also had devastating consequences, especially in Turkey in the late 1950s, when hundreds were killed outright by DDT, a spray that was used to kill mosquitoes.
There is an active reintroduction plan for the Waldrapp ibis. However, it is a long and complicated process, as the Waldrapp was migratory across most of its range. Any reintroduction requires the released birds to be taught to migrate.