Large Ibis
Ibis near the ocean

The Australian White Ibis (Threskiornithidae: Threskiornis moluccus) is a large, distinctive white-wading bird. One of three native ibis species, it is easily recognised by its large white body, long neck, black head and downward curving black bill. This amazing long decurved bill helps the bird to sense invertebrates in terrestrial and marshy environments. It is also very useful for picking through garbage, earning it the nicknames ‘bin chicken’ and ‘tip turkey’.


Historically, their natural breeding and foraging grounds are wet and marshy areas or grasslands across eastern, northern and south-western Australia. However, long periods of drought along with changes to water management regimes in their inland habitat have forced flocks of these birds into urban areas. Australian White Ibis are now a common species in parks, waste processing centres, and ovals across Sydney. In fact, you can find these striking white birds in many parts of urban and suburban Australia.

As with all native species, ibis is protected by law. While not everyone may be fond of these large and stately birds, the fact that they are steadily leaving their native breeding grounds and infiltrating urban areas is a warning sign that something is out of kilter with our environment.


As droughts and changes to river management continue to affect our inland wetlands, ibis are becoming reliant upon urban food sources provided by humans. Open rubbish bins, waste centres, open grassy ovals, and garbage is strewn across parks all provide ample food for these opportunistic birds. This can cause problems such as:

  • Ibis can cause a significant mess when they dig through garbage bins.
  • Some ibis will readily steal food from picnickers. Although not dangerous or aggressive, they can be intimidating due to their large size and long beak.
  • Faecal drops under roost trees and in feeding areas can be smelly and very messy. The faecal drop may have a health impact if ingested.
  • Nesting colonies can be very noisy and messy.
  • Large numbers of ibis can cause damage to plants in roosting, breeding and feeding areas.

What you can do

  • Ensure your garbage bins are always covered. Ibis thrives on access to food scraps.
  • If using a public park or open space, always put your rubbish in the bin or take it home and dispose of it appropriately.
  • Don’t feed or encourage birds.
  • Practise good hygiene and always wash hands after contact with animal droppings.
  • Consider removing exotic plant species from your garden that provide nesting sites, particularly Cocos Palms - PDF - 3052 KB (Syagrus romanzoffianum). Cocos Palms are a listed Noxious Weed. They also attract flying-foxes and can cause them harm
  • The Australian Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney University and Domain Trust are currently conducting a long-term project to understand Sydney’s Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Australian White Ibis populations. If you see an ibis or cockatoo with a numbered plastic tag on its wing or metal / coloured plastic bands around its legs, report it to the Big City Birds project. By reporting the bird, you will be providing valuable data about ibis populations and behaviour.

You can send your report via email to or download the Big City Birds (available for both Androids and iPhones).

Contact WIRES if you find an injured native animal