Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita)

northern bald ibis

In the large walkthrough aviary, up the hill from Cold Blooded Corner.

Fast facts

Status Critically Endangered

Size 70-80cm from beak to tail. Wingspan: 125-135cm

Weight 1350-1540g (males tend to be heavier than females)

Gestation 24-28 days

Young 2-4 eggs (but can be up to 7)

Life span 10-15 years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Northern bald ibis (also known as the Waldrapp ibis) mostly eat small animals including invertebrates (such as grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, beetles, snails, worms and insect larvae), small lizards, frogs and fish; they will also sometimes eat aquatic plants, berries and young plant shoots.

These birds like to look for food (forage) together, using their curved beaks to peck at the ground, under stones and plants to find food.

Where do I live?

These birds were once found throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Europe; however they are currently found in small areas within the Middle East, Morocco and most recently rediscovered in Syria.

Northern bald ibis are found in habitats including dry plains, arid steppe areas and rocky cliffs by the sea.


Northern bald ibis nest together in groups of around 40 birds and will even nest close to other bird species such as great cormorants. They will build their nest on a cliff ledge or cave, and make a platform out of branches and then line it with different types of grasses. These birds will lay 1-7 eggs (usually 2-4) from March to April and both parents take turns to sit on the eggs for 24-28 days.

Both the parents will care for the chicks, and even after the chicks have left the nest (fledge) at around 43-47 days. Unlike most bird species, northern bald ibis are known to look after their young until the next breeding season. Northern bald ibis are fully mature at 3 years old, but often do not have their own chicks until they are around 6 years old.


Adult northern bald ibis do not have many predators; in fact these birds are predators to other animals!

However the eggs and chicks of northern bald ibis are often hunted by birds of prey (such as the Egyptian vulture and pharaoh eagle-owl) and rats.


The most recent causes for the decline of wild northern bald ibis include illegal building works and disturbance close to the cliffs that these birds use as breeding grounds. Further loss of habitat has been caused by domestic animals (such as cows and horses) overgrazing. The collection of fire wood and the use of pesticides (such as DDT used to kill mosquitoes) have also caused them problems. Hunting is a big threat to these birds, as both the eggs and adults are targeted for trophies or for food.

There are many conservation projects set up by organisations to protect these birds in the wild. Encouraging local people to be involved in the conservation of the northern bald ibis has been successful, and even a team of wardens has been created to collect information about these birds and to monitor the breeding sites to stop any further disturbances to these areas.

These birds are found in many captive breeding programs across the world, and have been successful in many collections.

Did you know?

The northern bald ibis is the main symbol of Birecik in Turkey. They are often used as emblems or logos for many businesses and even the local council!

The number of northern bald ibis in the wild has dropped over many years, and for a long time the reason for such a loss in their numbers was not well known.


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Group Visits

Class trip to Marwell Zoo

Thank you so much for a lovely trip. The children, staff and parents all had a wonderful day. The staff were all very friendly and helpful. It was the perfect environment for a class trip, the children loved seeing the animals and the grounds were beautiful for our picnics. Thank you to… Read full reviewMichelle, 14th July 2015