Plegadis falcinellus (Glossy ibis)

Glansibis [Afrikaans]; Zwarte ibis [Dutch]; Ibis falcinelle [French]; Brauner sichler [German]; Ibis-preto [Portuguese]

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Plegadis falcinellus (Glossy ibis) Plegadis falcinellus (Glossy ibis)

Glossy ibis. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Glossy ibis, Milnerton Sewage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs on every continent except Antarctica; in southern Africa, it is locally common in central and southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, northern and southern Botswana, northern Namibia and central and south-western South Africa. It generally prefers shallow, freshwater lakes and rivers, flood plains, riparian marshes, seasonal pans, flooded grassland, irrigated farmland, estuaries and open grassland in parks and farms. When breeding, it is largely restricted to swamps with stands of tall sedges and reeds.

Distribution of Glossy ibis in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

In southern Africa it can be sedentary or nomadic and dispersive, as it often follows rain fronts which transform arid habitats into temporary oases.


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging in flocks of at least 30-40 individuals, walking in shallow water or soft ground, probing the soil and snapping up prey on the surface. It occasionally follows Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) and Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius), catching any animals disturbed in their wake. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, breeding in colonies of roughly 3-200 nests, often alongside other birds such as herons, African spoonbills, cormorants, African darters and other ibises.
  • The nest is mainly built by the female with material provided by the female, consisting of a small platform of sedge stems, reeds, sticks and branches, lined with grass, leaves and other soft material. It is typically placed in a dense patch of rushes or reeds, occasionally on the ground on a large reedbed island.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-February in South Africa and from November-April further north in southern Africa.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes by both sexes for about 20-23 days.
  • The chicks are brooded intensely by both parents for the first two weeks of their lives, after which they form crèches in nearby reedbeds, although they still return to the nest to be fed. They can fly and self feed after they reach 42 days old, becoming fully independent roughly a week later.


Not threatened in southern Africa, although its range has contracted in much of Eurasia.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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