#01. Northern Bald Ibis
It’s bald, it’s black and it looks like a cross between a vulture and a curlew. With those looks, this bird certainly isn’t winning any beauty pageants. But the northern bald ibis does win the number one spot on my list of the ugliest birds in the world! Hurrah!
Interestingly, some people believe that its extraordinarily ugly appearance is what gives the northern bald ibis its appeal. When seen closely, the form of the bird appears almost comical with a naked pink head and crest worn on the hind side of the neck.
Not exceptionally heavy, the northern bald ibis weighs between 1 to 1.3 kg, but has a wing span of almost 53 inches and a length of nearly 31 inches. In flight, the ibis looks ready to conquer the skies with shallow but powerful wing flaps.
Northern Bald Ibis Habitat and Breeding
The northern bald ibis prefers to live in colonies, which may contain 50 or more breeding pairs. They can usually be seen on cliff tops. Breeding season starts in March and males with the longest bills find it the easiest to attract a mate. A mature breeding pair will usually have 2 to 4 eggs, but rarely do they all make it to fledglings. On average, one chick is reared per year.
The northern bald ibis can often be found foraging for food in dry and semi arid dessert lands. They roost in colonies and may even hunt for food together. Their favorite meals include snails, scorpions, lizards, beetles and grasshoppers, which can be found in abundance in dry areas. The ibis has a long beak made for hunting its prey. With a tip that is sensitive to touch and smell, this bird can often be seen digging the sand and probing the shrubs in search of food.
Northern Bald Ibis in Culture and Media
A legend exists in the Birecik area of Turkey, along the River Euphrates, that links the northern bald ibis to Noah’s ark. The local belief is that the bird was the first to be released from the mammoth ship since it is a symbol of fertility. The ibis is also revered in Turkey and was considered sacred in ancient Egypt.
In recent times, the northern bald ibis has graced the postage stamps of many a country, including Yemen, Syria, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey, which are actively following a captive breeding program to increase the population of this endangered species.