Northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita)

northern bald ibis

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

Fast facts

Status Endangered

Size Height: 70–80 cm; wingspan: 125–135 cm

Weight 1350-1550 g

Gestation 24-28 days

Young 2-4 eggs are usually laid

Life span About 25 years

What do I eat?

Northern bald ibis eat a wide variety of foods, especially grasshoppers, locusts, mole-crickets, crickets, beetles and small reptiles. They will also eat most other invertebrates and small vertebrates they can find, including scorpions, snails, worms, frogs and fish.  In addition, they occasionally feed on small mammals, nestling birds and vegetation including berries, young shoots and aquatic plants. Northern bald ibis tend to gather in flocks of 20 to 30 birds when feeding. They seek food by using their long, curved beaks to peck at the ground and to poke under stones and into tufts of vegetation and soft earth.

Where do I live?

This species used to be found throughout North Africa, into the Middle East and in parts of southern Europe, but now there are only two populations, one in Morocco and one in Turkey and Syria. The population in Syria migrates south, over-wintering in Ethiopia. Northern bald ibis live in a variety of habitats including arid and semi-arid areas with cliffs and steep slopes, agricultural fields and mountain meadows.


Northern bald ibis usually nest in colonies of between 3 and 40 pairs. They nest in a range of habitats, including cliffs and next to rivers and the coast. They occasionally nest on top of old buildings such as castles, walls and towers. This species builds nests out of branches and the males collect grass, straw, wool, rags and other rubbish which the female then uses to line the nest. They usually lay between 2 and 4 eggs, though clutches of between 1 and 7 are known. The eggs are a bluish-white colour with small brown spots.  The chicks fledge at between 43 and 47 days of age, but the parents look after the young long after this, generally until the next breeding season. Adult birds don’t usually start to breed until they are 6 years old.


The eggs of Northern bald ibis are known to be predated upon by gulls and ravens. A number of bird species prey on chicks, including Pharaoh eagle owls, brown-necked ravens and possibly Egyptian vultures.


This species has suffered a large decline in numbers, mainly due to hunting, as well as a reduction in the amount of food available to them due to overgrazing and firewood collection. In Turkey, the main threat in the past was due to disturbance by people and the intensive use of pesticides which killed many birds and reduced their breeding success. The numbers of Northern bald ibis have increased in recent years thanks to conservation efforts which have included the formation of an international advisory group to coordinate conservation work, captive breeding programmes and the release of captive birds.  This work has led to the species now being listed as Endangered rather than Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist. These birds are listed on CITES Appendix I, which means that trade in these birds or any of their parts is illegal.

Did you know?

The Northern bald ibis was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, and it can be seen in hieroglyphics from 5000 years ago!

This species will defend their nest if an intruder comes near. They do this by half raising their body, ruffling their feathers, partially lowering their wings and stretching out their necks.  

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Graze Restaurant

Having been an annual member for some years I have been impressed by the continuing improvements at Marwell: Not only to the animal displays but also to the facilities for visitors. In previous years our visits were limited to the summer as a picnic was the only way to ensure palatable… Read full reviewErnie, 11th January 2019