Balcony Birding: Ibises


“Birds are the most accomplished aeronauts the world has ever seen. They fly high and low, at great speed, and very slowly. And always with extraordinary precision and control.”

The closest relatives of the Black-headed Ibis are the Sacred and Moluccan Ibises.
Black-headed Ibis | Indian Ibis | Threskiornis Melanocephalus
Black Headed Ibis | Oriental White Ibis | Threskiornis Melanocephalus

The first time I saw an Ibis in my city was at Lodhi Garden in January, so when I saw them from my balcony it did not take me much time to recognize them. Their distinct beak style is a give away.

Glossy Ibises flying in the famous “V-formation”

I have seen all the three species of Ibis found in India (as I understand) while bird watching from my balcony. They are:
1. the Black Headed Ibis or Oriental White Ibis | Threskiornis Melanocephalus (Genus Threskiornis)
2. the Red Naped Ibis or Indian Black Ibis | Pseudibis Papillosa (Genus Pseudibis)
3. the Glossy Ibis | Plegadis Falcinellus (Genus Plegadis)

Glossy Ibises | Plegadis Falcinellus

Glossy Ibises look plain dark if seen from a distance. A closer look in good light will show off their actual glossy shades of colors; deep maroon, emerald, bronze and violet.

A wedge of Black Headed Ibises

You will often see the Ibises fly with their necks fully stretched and in a characteristic V-formation.

Trivia:…… A new study of Ibises finds that these big-winged birds carefully position their wingtips and sync their flapping, presumably to catch the preceding bird’s updraft—and save energy during flight. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of it, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. But flying in a V isn’t just about staying in the right place. It’s also about flapping at the right time. There are two reasons birds might fly in a V formation: It may make flight easier or they’re simply following the leader. Scientists do not know how the birds find that aerodynamic sweet spot, but they suspect that the animals align themselves either by sight or by sensing air currents through their feathers. Alternatively, they may move around until they find the location with the least resistance. Every Ibis in the wedge gets a chance to lead the group from the tip of the V. The change is done timely and without disturbing the formation.……”

Red Naped Ibis| Indian Black Ibis | Pseudibis Papillosa

The Red Naped Ibis has a dark colored body with bluish-green sheen. The crown and nape are covered in bright red warts. A white patch is usually visible near the shoulder of the wing. The beak is long and curved downwards.

Finally a clear capture of Red Naped Ibis as seen from the balcony on 20.10.2020

The first time I saw a Red-Naped or lets say an Ibis was nearly a decade back and believe you me, I had no memory of it until some days back. It was at the Pataudi Palace. Sharing a picture of it below.

Red Naped Ibis clicked in Pataudi Palace (Jul ’09)

The Black Headed Ibis is a large wader (bigger than the other two Ibises mentioned in this post) with a white body and black head and neck. They too have a long, down curved beak.

A congregation of Black Headed Ibises

The Ibises are wading birds with long legs & a distinct long curved beak. The beak helps them dig around in the mud for food (insects, worms etc). Watch this short clip of a Red Naped digging out something to eat.

The Glossies are in no hurry as they fly across in perfect synchronization

Here are a couple of shots that are not clicked from the balcony but somewhere within Delhi.

Black Headed Ibis (Not from the balcony)
Red Naped Ibis clicked at Lodhi Garden

Some more from the balcony.

I was clicking the ‘tunnel of infinite hope‘ in the cloud when this Ibis just flew into the frame at a perfect time.

Red Naped Ibis flying into cloud’s abyss

A little trivia on Ibis: “……The ancient Egyptians revered Ibis. The inhabitants of Egypt invariably depicted the God of wisdom and justice Jehuti (Thoth) with the head of an Ibis. Archaeologists have found the mummified remains of Ibis in the temple of Thoth, as well as numerous images of birds on the walls. Today in Egypt, Ibises are extremely rare…..”

The flyovers, Red Naped Ibises

Trying to identify the species from silhouette? Here’s a tip: In flight, the legs of Red Naped Ibis don’t extend beyond the tail, unlike in Glossy Ibis.

Glossy Ibises (note that the legs can be seen beyond the tail)

Some interesting facts that I came to know about these birds:
* In the legend of Noah’s ark, the Ibis bird is mentioned, which, after the flood, led Noah to the upper Euphrates, where Noah settled with his family.
* The oldest Ibis is 60 million years old.
* The burning-red color of the plumage in Red Ibises is explained by the fact that the carapace of crayfish eaten by birds contains the coloring pigment carotene.
* The red-footed or Japanese Ibis is the rarest bird species on earth. The population is 8-11 birds
—- Sourced from Google

Update as on Oct 20, 2020: I am happy to see frequent visits by the Black Headed Ibises and of late Red Naped Ibises. Their proximity & time of visit is giving me good opportunity to click them in good light. The one just above is just one of the photos of the Black-Headed.

Red Naped Ibis (note that the legs are shorter than the tail)

I believe I can fly; I believe I can touch the sky
Spread my wings and fly away;

I think about it every night and day
I believe I can soar

This pair comes close to noon and can be seen flying across the sky in sync (Sept 2020)

Do watch out for the next post on another species from my #BalconyBirding list

Posts shared so far on:
1. Rosy Starlings
2. Alexandrine Parakeet
3. Rose-Ringed Parakeet

4. Plum Headed Parakeet
5. Indian Spot-Billed Duck
6. Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon
7. Black-Winged Stilt
8. Indian Peafowl
9. Indian Purple Sunbird
10. Green Bee-Eater
11. Indian Silverbill
12. Black-Headed Ibis
13. Red-Naped Ibis
14. Glossy Ibis



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The Soul Is Here For It’s Own Joy!
Monika Ohson | TravelerInMe

This published post is being shared as part of:

#WordlessWednesday hosted by Natasha 
and some more cool linky hosts Sue ,  Betty ,  Zina 


21 responses »

  1. We have three ibis species here in Florida,but I usually see only the White and Glossy Ibises. Their flocks are so different in appearance. The Glossies are very orderly,often in a straight line or nice “V,” while the White Ibises look like a bunch of kids on skateboards, some gliding, some starining to keep up, and all seem uninterested in what the rest of the flock is doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • White American, Glossy & White Headed Ibises. So similar to types found here except we have a black headed instead of white 😀 ….. Here all of them seem very disciplined. The habitat plays a role in the differences I guess. It’s very interesting to know the different species that exit across the globe. I like how you describe them as bunch of kids on a skateboard; I have a similar feeling when I watch a flock of parakeets in the sky 😂🦜


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