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Sacred Ibis
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Threskiornis aethiopicus
ORDER: Ciconiiformes
FAMILY: Threskiornithidae
RANGE: Africa south of the Sahara and Iraq
HABITAT: Inland waterways
DIET: Invertebrates, reptiles, fish, eggs, nestlings, carrion and offal
Status: Extinct in Egypt, common elsewhere

Sacred ibis have mostly white feathers with elongated black plumes drooping over the tail. The long black bill curves downward and the head, neck and long legs are black and bald. Juveniles lack the tail plumes and have feathers on their heads and necks.

Sacred ibis are social birds, often mingling with other species. The ibis gather in flocks to feed during the day and to roost at night. Colonial nesters, they often breed in a colony of as many as 200 birds.

The male displays to the female by extending his neck forward, then jerking his head down with his bill open. Both birds then stretch their necks up and flick their heads back. They bow and intertwine their necks, preen and call out. The female selects the nest site. Over 25 nests may occur in an area of 50 square feet. A clutch generally contains two-to-four greenish-white eggs, which hatch in 21days. Both parents raise the chicks, feeding them with partially digested food. In five-to-six weeks the chicks fledge and the parents break their bond.

The ancient Egyptians worshipped the sacred ibis. Pictures of the ibis are on walls of tombs. Over a million mummified sacred ibis remains were located in a single group of tombs in Egypt.