Perfect photo of African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) in flight by Hisao Kanno

For centuries, the sacred ibis was a venerated bird in Ancient Egypt. Millions of ibises were sacrificed as offerings to the Egyptian god Thoth. These birds were also revered by the ancient Greeks and Romans. And centuries later, they were introduced into parts of Europe where they have become invasive.

The African sacred ibis, Threskiornis aethiopicus, is a wading bird closely related to the black-headed ibis and the Australian white ibis with which they often hybridise in mixed flocks.

Unlike its noisy relative the Hadeda, the sacred ibis is mostly silent, only making low croaking noises when alarmed.

Striking white ibis with a naked black head and neck and black legs and feet. White wings framed by black wingtips and trailing edges. Can be encountered in almost any open habitat from wild wetlands to farmland and rubbish dumps. Originally restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, but now established in Taiwan and Europe, with feral colonies in France, Italy, and Spain.

They are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, except in the expansive rainforest and desert regions.

Sacred ibises breed in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Iraq. Some populations migrate with the rains. Populations across Africa move closer to equatorial regions during winter. Iraqi populations migrate in a south-westerly direction toward Iran, with some birds reaching as far as Oman. Although much rarer, the sacred ibis also breeds in Kuwait as well as Yemen, where they have been recorded nesting along the Red Sea. Vagrant birds have been sighted as far out as the Socotra Islands.

Interestingly, the species did not previously breed in Southern Africa. The first breeding populations coincided with the construction of major dams and irrigation plants in the latter part of the 20th century. They also took advantage of the introduction of commercial agricultural practices such as dung heaps, carrion tips, and composting, which offered new foraging grounds.