Northern Bald Ibis in Cadiz province, Andalucía
The Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita)
Our re-introduced birds come from a stock of six out of what is thought to be eight known blood lines of this globally rare and endangered bird. There are thought to be only around 400 free flying birds left in the world and these are mainly at Tamri and a few other sites on Morocco's Atlantic coast. There is another well know colony in the Birecik area in Urfa province in Turkey.
Northern Bald Ibis are colonial and prefer to nest on rocky cliff faces and the sighting of the Retin centre is close to the 100m cliffs of Barbate, an ideal spot one would think for their re-introduction through hand-rearing. After a few nesting attempts by individual birds from 2009 the Ibis started to investigate the cliffs below the town of Vejer de la Frontera, at La Barca de Vejer on the River Barbate. Probably the reason for the birds moving from the cliffs was the difficulty with gull predation and the birds preference to stay close to areas of human habitation. Birds started nesting at La Barca de Vejer a few years ago and last year (2012) four nesting pairs bred. This year the colony expanded to thirteen nesting pairs in three sections of the lower cliffs right beside the road and now it's hoped that it will expand into a larger colony. This is indeed welcome news after reading about the sad reports from troubled Syria that the small population of Northern Bald Ibis at Palmyra has only one surviving bird. There could be as yet undiscovered populations of this unique bird but it looks quite unlikey. Time to spread the good news and concentrate on developing this area for the global sake of the ibis.
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The re-introduction programme was started after meetings with re-introduction specialists in Innsbruk, Austria and in Madrid. This scheme although governed from the Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Jerez de la Frontera is managed locally on military land on the slopes of the Sierra de Retin between Barbate and Zahara de Los Atunes.
Part of the objectives of the groups involved in this project is also to promote social awareness about the programme and involve local farmers, hunters and NGO's.
All around the coastal areas there is a wide variety of habitat for the ibis to choose from. They are mainly insectiverous feeders and can often be seen on farmland with animals just like Cattle Egrets and in open agricultural areas and managed grasslands like golf courses or irrigated fields where livestock feed during the long dry summers.
The ibis don't migrate like their cousins the Glossy Ibis do as winter temperatures are mild enabling them to find food.
There are now over eighty birds flying around the area, and over our rooftop and some roost away from the aviary at Retin and others go back there in the evening. Some losses have naturally occurred with predation from Eagle Owl and Bonelli's Eagle. Accidents have included being hit by traffic and eating bits of wire!
A chick begging an adult bird for food (13th of May 2013)