Lifestyle and Lifespan
The Hadada Ibis is a large-bodied bird with dark gray or dark brown pigmentation, slightly lighter on the neck and chest. The shoulder region has glossy green-purple feathers, and a white 'mustache' stripe below the bill. Their bill is long and curves downward, and is a dark gray-black with a bright red portion on the upper mandible. Legs are short and black. Eyes are yellow or brown.
The Hadada Ibis is sometimes confused with the Glossy Ibis, another dark-colored bird of similar shape and size. Some of the features that sets the Hadada Ibis apart from the Glossy Ibis is the presence of the white 'mustache' stripe next to the bill, an all-over dark gray color, and short legs. The Glossy Ibis has dark reddish feathers on the neck and underbelly, long legs, and not 'mustache' stripe. Additionally, the Hadada Ibis's range is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa while the Glossy Ibis is present in smaller regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America. There are three subspecies of Hadada Ibis, B. hagedash brevirostris, found in Senegal east to DRC and Kenya and south to Zambezi Valley; B. hagedash hagedash, which is found in South Africa south of Zambezi Valley; and B. hagedash nilotica, which can be found in Sudan and Ethiopia to northeastern DCR, Uganda and northwestern Tanzania.
Their long de-curved bill is an excellent tool to help them find their food; as a tactile feeder, they probe the mud for invertebrates with their bill. It is much more sensitive to touch than other birds bills.
This species can be found in wooded streams and river habitats, moist open grasslands, savanna woodland, cultivated land, playing fields, and gardens. Preferring wetland edges, it is found less often in marshes, flooded grasslands, open beaches and lake edges.
The species is mostly sedentary, reusing the same roosting spot year-round and year after year. During the day, they may fly up to a couple of kilometers away to feed, but always returning to the same roosting spot.
Hadada Ibises mainly eats insects, worms, snails, centipedes and millipedes, crustaceans and small lizards, amphibians and fish. They are also thought to occasionally scavenge on carrion.
The Hadada Ibis is an invertebrate specialist, helping keep the populations of insects stable. It is also preyed upon by the African Crowned Eagle, the Black Sparrowhawk, and humans. Young chicks and eggs provide meals for Genets, monkeys, and monitor lizards.
During the day, the Hadada Ibis stays in pairs or small flocks of no more than 30 individuals and forages, hardly ever going a couple of kilometers away from the roost. They avoid drier areas, making local movements to areas in response to rain. During the night, they return to their roost.
The Hadada Ibis has different methods to catching its prey. The 'bill grab' is when the Hadada Ibis uses its bill like tweezers to pick up invertebrates that are either dead or not moving very much. A 'bill snap' is a rapid closing of the bill as a reflex reaction to tactile stimulation of the bill by contact with prey.
Though a gregarious bird, they do not gather in groups as large as other wading birds. During the day while they forage, the Hadada Ibis are seen in pairs or groups of 5-30 individuals. Roosts can contain up to 100 birds and be very noisy. Most of their calls are made at dawn and dusk. During the breeding season, a breeding pair will nest solitarily.
The breeding season is between July and January. During this time, the male will display to females. Once a pair forms, they remain bonded for the season and engage in mutual preening and bowing displays. The pair nests in isolation, away from other pairs. The male will gather the nest materials, offering them to the female. The nest is a flimsy basket-shaped platform of twigs and greenery, lined with lichens and grasses and usually 1-12 meters near or above water. Nests may be in trees or in or on man-made structures such as telephone poles. Nest sites are usually used year after year, though not necessarily by the same birds.
2-3 eggs are laid per nesting cycle, though as many as 5 have been recorded. The eggs are green in color, laid irregularly, and incubated for 28 days by both sexes. Chicks are born without feathers and completely dependent upon adults. Both male and female feed chicks regurgitated food. Chicks fledge at about 40 days, and are independent by 60 days.
The Hadada Ibis is currently listed as Least Concern (2012) on the IUCN. It is listed on Appendix III on CITES by Ghana. Currently, the population is thought to be stable, and thought to number between 100,000 and 250,000 individuals.
Though currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN, the Hadada Ibis was once hunted to near extinction in some parts of their range in the early 20th century. With legal protection, they have made a comeback. Ghana listed them on Appendix III on CITES in 1976 to help protect them from widespread drainage that was destroying their habitat.
The name 'Hadada' comes from the call of the Ibis, which sounds like 'ha-da-da ha-da-da.'
Unlike other Ibises, the Hadada Ibis nests in isolation. During the rest of the year, it lives in communal roosts.
The iridescent feathers are not due to a pigment, but the way the light scatters and reflects off of the keratin in the feathers.
The Hadada Ibis helps aerate the soil when feeding because it probes the mud and dirt with their bill.