All continents except Antarctica


Wetlands, forests, savannas, and coastal areas

Wonderful wading waterbirds

Ibis are medium- to large size wading and terrestrial birds, related to storks and very closely related to spoonbills. They have a longish neck and legs, and the males are generally larger than the females and have longer bills.

All ibis species have bare spots, usually on the face or throat. The sacred ibis, black-headed ibis, and Australian white ibis also have featherless areas on the breast. These bare areas turn a deep red during the breeding season. Bald ibis have, as their name implies, bare heads. Long legs and toes help make all ibis just as comfortable walking as flying or perching in trees.

A home high or low

Ibis are often associated with wetlands in tropical and subtropical habitats, but some species like to live out in open meadows, farmlands, and grasslands, while others prefer forests and woodlands. Most ibis are found at sea level, but some ibis species live in mountain regions, either in dry woods and grasslands, forests, or marshy mountain meadows. Nesting sites may be found in tall trees, bushes, and even the side of high cliffs. Most nest sites are found near the water.

The African sacred ibis was considered sacred in ancient Egypt but is now no longer found there. More than one million ibis mummies were found in one group of tombs in Egypt.
The ancient Egyptian god of wisdom was depicted as a human with the head of an ibs.
There are now more Waldrapp ibis, also known as hermit ibis or bald ibis, in zoos than in the wild. Only one wild flock is known to exist, found in North Africa and totaling about 100 birds.

We’ve had ibis species in our collection since our earliest days, starting with the Australian white ibis. Today, the San Diego Zoo has southern bald ibis and Madagascar crested ibis in the free-flight Scripps Aviary. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has scarlet and southern bald ibis in the Wings of the World aviary, Madagascar crested ibis in an aviary next to Lorikeet Landing, and sacred ibis in the African Outpost. The Safari Park also has a small flock of scarlet ibis that are part of the Frequent Flyers bird show—the flashes of bright orange against the hillside as the birds come flying down to the stage are eye-catching!

Most ibis are fairly abundant, but there are some species that are very rare and are in danger of becoming extinct. The dwarf olive ibis Bostrychia bocagei, Waldrapp or northern bald ibis Geronticus eremita, white-shouldered ibis Pseudibis davisoni, and giant ibis Thaumatibis giganteaare are at critical risk. Their dwindling populations are due to many factors, including intense hunting, drainage of wetland feeding habitats, commercial logging of nesting trees, and pesticides. Managed care in zoos and reintroduction to the wild may be the only way to prevent their extinction.

You can help us bring ibis and other species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.