Birds – Straw-necked Ibis

One of the most remarkable and interesting members of the group is the Straw-necked Ibis (Carphibi’s spinicollis), which ranges over the whole of Australia and Tasmania as well as portions of New Guinea, and takes its common name from the presence on the sides of the fore neck of peculiar long, straw-like and straw-colored plumes. About thirty inches long, this bird has the bare portions of the head and neck dull inky black, while the back and sides of the neck are clothed with a white down. The general color of the plumage above is black, glossed with shining bronze green and purple, and covered with numerous bars of dull black, while the breast, abdomen, and tail are pure white. This splendid Ibis appears to be generally, though somewhat erratically, distributed over the whole of this immense territory, being present in a locality in countless thousands one year and entirely absent the next and perhaps for half a dozen years, its coming depending on the abundance of animal food. It inhabits the open downs and flats, particularly such as are studded with shallow lagoons, through which it wades knee-deep in search of mollusks, frogs, newts, and insects, and it also feeds on grasshoppers and insects generally. It “walks over the surface of the ground in a stately manner,” says Gould, “perches readily on trees, and its flight is both singular and striking, particularly when large flocks are passing over the plains, at one moment showing their white breasts and at the next, by a change in their position, exhibiting their dark-colored back and snowy white tails.” The note is described as a loud, hoarse, croaking sound, which may be heard at a considerable distance. The Straw-necked Ibis nests in colonies, often of vast size, one recently visited by Mr. D. Le Souëf in Riverina, New South Wales, in a swamp about four hundred acres in extent, being estimated to contain fully 100,000 birds. The nests were placed on low bushes, which were trampled down by the birds “into rough platforms to within six or nine inches of the water, whereon they constructed green twig nests about six inches across by two inches deep.” The nests, which are mostly unlined, number from a dozen to thirty to each clump of bushes, while the eggs, from three to five in number, are dull white, of coarse texture and pitted surface.