A Very Ibis History

Scrappy scavenger or annoying bin chicken?

The Australian white ibis has been given a pretty bad wrap lately. Known for diving in dumpsters and eating anything it can get its absurdly long beak on; this native bird is resilient.

Fondly known as the dumpster diver, neck bird, bin chicken or tip turkey these unique birds have an interesting history.

Australian white ibisImage: shutterstock

Dr John Martin an ecologist and wildlife officer at the botanic gardens has worked with the Australian white ibis for 15 years and believes the bird’s reputation is undeserved.

"Its about a fifty-fifty: they definitely do scavenge sometimes, but people don't manage that very well, so they do seem to get chased away by the birds,"

A fairly resilient species, the bird migrated after its habitat in the interior wetlands diminished in the 1970s. Instead of dying out the bird moved closer to the coast where it multiplied (potentially a little too much). 

"The ibis have actually been one of the survivors that have shifted to the coast and adapted their behaviour.”

The ibis has since adopted a new diet (mainly bin juice) and very cavalier attitude about human contact. Particularly if they are a lot of them and all you want to do is pass through, and none of them move. Like some sort of strange bird gang.

Australian white ibisImage: shuttertsock

The Ibis loves garbage with over 40 per cent eating at landfills every day. There’s a real concern that this has the potential to spread disease, similar to the way rats spread the black-death in the middle-ages.

"You have to behave with these wild birds in pretty much the same way; you wouldn't go and touch something dirty and put your hands in your mouth, you would go wash your hands," he said.

The White Ibis gets around, living 11 years and travelling around 70 kilometres a day making it a hard bird to survey. However, it’s estimated in October there are usually around 5700 birds in the Sydney region.

“Fairly accurate count but it definitely is an underestimate," said Dr Martin.

The bird is native to Australia, and though it may be the most annoying bird in the world, it should be allowed to live in without being treated as a pest.

It's time to relocate the bin chicken, away from densely populated areas.

Watch a totally "legitimate" documentary on the "bin chicken" below for a bit of a laugh.

Header: Shutterstock, Australian 

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