Australian white ibis national community survey

Since 2003 we have been running the community survey where we ask members of the public to tell us about their white ibis sightings.

The Australian white ibis, Threskionis molucca, is a highly visible native water bird in New South Wales. Prior to the 1970s, the white ibis was rarely sighted in urban areas and did not breed in the Sydney region but followed the non-permanent waters of inland lakes and rivers. Due to extensive droughts and changes in water regimes they have sought refuge in coastal wetlands.

White ibis have adapted well to the constant water and food supply available in urban environments and they are now a common sight in our parks where they feed on invertebrates (beetle larvae etc.), crustaceans (yabbies etc.) and our handouts (bread etc.).

White ibis survey summary reports

A total of 25,228 white ibis were reported in the survey conducted on Sunday 11 October 2015.

  Count Sites Participants
NSW & ACT 8579 176 186
Qld 15982 169 87
Vic 441 17 17
SA 98 15 10
WA 76 8 7
NT 52 4 4
Total 25228 389 311

In New South Wales the majority of ibis were reported within the Sydney region (see below). Yet reports were received from Batemans Bay in the south, to Tweed Heads in the north and Parkes in the west.

  • Sydney region – 5694 ibis
  • Northern (coast to dividing range) – 1511 ibis
  • Southern (coast to dividing range) – 336 ibis
  • Western (west of dividing range) – 578 ibis

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been banding nestling and adult ibis for 12 years in conjunction with universities and land managers to improve our understanding of white ibis behaviour in the urban environment.

The annual community survey provides an ideal opportunity to locate banded birds to aid our understanding of the habitat use and movements of white ibis. During the recent survey, 33 banded or wing-tagged white ibis were observed.

Large numbers of banded birds were seen in Centennial Park and the City parks e.g. Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Garden, which have been banding sites. Yet ibis are highly mobile and banded birds were also observed at sites across Sydney (e.g. Eastern Creek and Lake Annan) and in Wollongong and Gosford. Additional reports have been received throughout the year of banded and wing-tagged birds moving to Lake Macquarie.

NSW summary

Year Count
2008 9942
2009 11147
2010 8957
2011 9429
2012 7928
2013 9212
2014 7373
2015 8579

A total of 21839 white ibis were reported in the survey conducted on Sunday 26 October 2014.

  Count Sites Participants
NSW & ACT 7373 152 136
Qld 13147 175 17
Vic 1081 14 13
SA 229 4 2
WA 8 2 1
NT 1 1 1
Total 21839 348 170

In New South Wales the majority of ibis were reported within the Sydney region (see below). Yet reports were received from Batemans Bay in the south, to Tweed Heads in the north and Parkes in the west. White ibis have learnt to get an easy meal from human leftovers and approximately 42% (n = 3071) of the birds counted in New South Wales were reported foraging within landfills.

  • Sydney region – 5694 ibis, 102 sites
  • Northern (coast to dividing range) – 886 ibis, 30 sites
  • Southern (coast to dividing range) – 553 ibis, 9 sites
  • Western (west of dividing range) – 240 ibis, 11 sites

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been banding nestling and adult ibis for 11 years in conjunction with universities and land managers to improve our understanding of white ibis behaviour in the urban environment.

The annual community survey provides an ideal opportunity to locate banded birds to aid our understanding of the habitat use and movements of white ibis. During the recent survey, 29 banded or wing-tagged white ibis were observed. Large numbers of banded birds were seen in Centennial Park and the City parks e.g. Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Garden, which have been banding sites. Yet ibis are highly mobile and banded birds were also observed at sites across Sydney (e.g. Belrose, Eastern Creek and Lake Annan) and in Wollongong and Gosford. Additional reports have been received throughout the year of banded and wing-tagged birds moving to Lake Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

NSW Summary

Year Count
2008 9942
2009 11147
2010 8957
2011 9429
2012 7928
2013 9212
2014 7373

The Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) community survey was conducted on Sunday 20 October 2013.

Across New South Wales a total of 9212 white ibis were counted by 180 people across 252 locations. Contributions were also received by members of the community in Queensland (9095), Victoria (353), South Australia (114), Western Australia (29) and the Northern Territory (14); with a total of 18817 white ibis reported.

In New South Wales the majority of ibis were reported within the Sydney region (see below). Yet reports were received from Moruya in the south, to Tweed Heads in the north and Parkes in the west. White ibis have learnt to get an easy meal from human leftovers and approximately 45% (n = 3990) of the birds counted in New South Wales were reported foraging within landfills.

  • Sydney region – 6855 ibis, 172 sites
  • Northern (coast to dividing range) – 1511 ibis, 52 sites
  • Southern (coast to dividing range) – 424 ibis, 4 sites
  • Western (west of dividing range) – 422 ibis, 24 sites

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been banding nestling and adult ibis for 10 years in conjunction with universities and land managers to improve our understanding of white ibis behaviour in the urban environment. The annual community survey provides an ideal opportunity to locate banded birds to aid our understanding of the habitat use and movements of white ibis.

During the recent survey, 33 banded or wing-tagged white ibis were observed. Large numbers of banded birds were seen in Centennial Park and the City parks e.g. Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Garden, which have been banding sites. Yet ibis are highly mobile, and birds banded at these sites were also observed at sites across Sydney (e.g. Belrose, Eastern Creek, Lake Annan, Lake Gilawarna, Rockdale) and in Wollongong and Gosford. Additional reports have been received throughout the year of banded and wing-tagged birds moving to Lake Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

NSW Summary

Year Count
2008 9942
2009 11147
2010 8957
2011 9429
2012 7928
2013 9212

The Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) community survey was conducted on Sunday 28 October 2012.

Across New South Wales a total of 7928 white ibis were counted by 64 people across 172 locations. The 2012 community survey recorded slightly fewer white ibis in comparison with the 2011 (9429) and 2010 (8957) counts. Contributions were also received by members of the community in Queensland (9061), Victoria (464) and the Northern Territory (5); with a total of 17458 white ibis reported.

In New South Wales the majority of ibis were reported within the Sydney region (see below). Yet reports were received from Wollongong in the south, to Tweed Heads in the north and Dubbo in the west. White ibis have learnt to get an easy meal from human leftovers and approximately 36% (n = 2883) of the birds counted in New South Wales were reported foraging within landfills.

  • Sydney region – 6283 ibis, 132 sites
  • Northern (coast to dividing range) – 956 ibis, 20 sites
  • Southern (coast to dividing range) –- 503 ibis, 4 sites
  • Western (west of dividing range) – 186 ibis, 16 sites

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been banding nestling and adult ibis for 9 years in conjunction with universities and land managers to improve our understanding of white ibis behaviour in the urban environment. The annual community survey provides an ideal opportunity to locate banded birds to aid our understanding of the habitat use and movements of white ibis.

During the recent survey, 42 banded or wing-tagged white ibis were observed. Large numbers of banded birds were seen in Centennial Park and the City parks e.g. Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Garden, which have been banding sites. Yet ibis are highly mobile, and birds banded at these sites were also observed at sites across Sydney (e.g. Auburn, Eastern Creek, Lucas Heights, Lake Annan, Lake Gilawarna, Rockdale) and in Wollongong and Gosford. Additional reports have been received throughout the year of banded and wing-tagged birds moving to Coffs Harbour and Brisbane.

NSW Summary

Year Count
2008 9942
2009 11147
2010 8957
2011 9429
2012 7928

The statewide Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) community survey was conducted on Sunday 30 October 2011.

In total 9429 ibis were counted which is consistent with the 8957 counted in the 2010 community survey. In 2011 reports were submitted by 80 people for 117 locations across the State.

The majority of ibis were reported within the Sydney region (6792). Yet reports were received from Wollongong in the south to Tweed Heads in the north and Dubbo in the west.

  • Sydney region: 6792 ibis, 179 sites,
  • Northern (coast to dividing range): 1641 ibis, 28 sites,
  • Southern (coast to dividing range): 439 ibis, 4 sites,
  • Western (west of dividing range): 557 ibis, 33 sites.

Ibis have learnt to get an easy meal from human leftovers, and large numbers of ibis (approximately 2800 or 33%) were reported foraging within landfills across the State.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been banding nestling and adult ibis for 8 years in conjunction with universities and land managers to improve our understanding of ibis behaviour in the urban environment. The annual community survey provides an ideal opportunity to locate banded birds to aid our understanding of the habitat use and movements of ibis.

During the recent survey, 76 banded ibis were observed. Large numbers of banded ibis were seen in Centennial Park and the Sydney city parks e.g. Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Garden, all of which have been banding sites. Yet ibis are highly mobile, and birds banded at these sites were also observed at sites across Sydney (e.g. Auburn, Eastern Creek, Lucas Heights, Lake Annan, Lake Giliwarna and Rockdale) and in Wollongong and Gosford.

NSW Summary

Year Count
2008 9942
2009 11147
2010 8957
2011 9429

The statewide Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) community survey was conducted on Sunday 31 October 2010. In total 8957 ibis were counted, with 43 people submitting reports for 209 locations across the State.

The majority of ibis were reported within the Sydney region (7108). However, reports were received from Tathra in the south (near Bega) to Stotts Creek in the north (near Tweed Heads) and Hay in the west. The regional breakdown was as follows:

  • Sydney region: 7108 ibis, 179 sites,
  • Northern (coast to dividing range): 1045 ibis, 16 sites,
  • Southern (coast to dividing range): 731 ibis, 11 sites,
  • Western (west of dividing range): 73 ibis, 4 sites.

At the time of the survey, much of the state was soaked by rain and ibis were observed to be foraging naturally within parks and paddocks. However, ibis have learnt to get an easy meal from human leftovers, and large numbers of ibis (4462, or 50%) were reported foraging within landfills across the state. Nesting was reported from sites across the Sydney region, a colony at Blackwall Point near Gosford, and on Big Island off the coast of Wollongong.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been banding nestling and adult ibis for 7 years in conjunction with universities and land managers to improve our understanding of ibis behaviour in the urban environment. The annual community survey provides an ideal opportunity to locate banded birds to aid our understanding of the habitat use and movements of ibis. During the recent survey, 93 banded ibis were observed.

Large numbers of banded ibis were seen in Centennial Park and the Sydney city parks e.g. Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Garden, all of which have been banding sites. However, ibis are highly mobile, and birds banded at these sites were also observed at sites across Sydney (e.g. Auburn, Belrose, Eastern Creek, Lucas Heights and Rockdale) and in Wollongong and Gosford.

Help us find out how many there are

The survey was last held during Bird Week 2017. During Bird Week you can also contribute to the Aussie Backyard Bird Count through the Playstore or iTunes app.

We welcome all counts, whether you travel to the local wetland or park where you have seen white ibis or if you coincidentally observe white ibis and conduct a count Information about white ibis with bands or tags is particularly useful as white ibis have been observed to move long distances e.g. from Victoria to Papua New Guinea.

These surveys aim to improve our understanding of the distribution and abundance of the Australian white ibis across New South Wales and we are working with our neighbouring states and territories to census the national population. This will help us to develop conservation practices for these birds.

In addition to the annual population survey, we are researching ibis behaviour and movement to find out where they feed, where they roost, how long they live and how much they move around.

Please help us by reporting sightings of tagged ibis through the Wingtags app. We welcome all reports, even if you see the same bird every day or multiple times within the same day. Regular reports of tagged birds allow us to build our understanding of individual birds behaviour.