A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek


Scientific stuff

White ibis
— also called
Australian white ibis, sacred ibis, dump bird, black-necked ibis, sickle bird

Threskiornis molucca
67-75 centimetres (27-30 inches)

Large white bird with dark legs, black head and upper neck, black tail feathers, and long, black, downcurved bill.

Females are slightly smaller than males, and have slightly shorter bills.

Up close, the white feathers often have dirty brown or grey stains, especially if the bird has been feeding in muddy waters or rubbish dumps.

Invasive. In the past 30 years they have spread into city parks and shopping centres. If they are hungry they will snatch sandwiches, burgers, and other food out of picnickers' hands.

Using our photos

Photos on this website are copyright. If you want to use any, email us at: creeklife@gmail.com

Irk and Irma's photos

Like many areas around eastern Australia, Calamvale Creek and the Golden Pond wetlands are now home to a growing number of ibises.

They increased in the outer suburban areas when Brisbane City Council introduced a wedge-tailed eagle to scare the birds from King George Square and Post Office Square.

Irk and Irma are nearly always together around the creek.

The photographer said:
“These days you can usually see several ibises around Golden Pond or further down the creek.

“Two that are always together are Irk and Irma. They feed together, rest on the rocks together, and sit on branches together.

“Irk has dark spotty patches on his neck, and Irma has the normal ibis black head and white lower neck.

“Ibises used to be a source of great delight decades ago, because city folk rarely saw them. But since they invaded the cities people now regard them as pests.

“They raid garbage bins for food, colonize dump sites, and when many are together they smell and leave a lot of droppings.

“I have seen them steal food from people's hands while eating. In some Brisbane parks it isn't unusual to see them walking around with a McDonald's bag in their mouth, or a container of food they have stolen from someone.

“One day in Queen Street Mall I saw one jump on a table at an outdoor restaurant and start eating the food on a horrified diner's plate.

“Even so, some scientists are worried that numbers have dropped dramatically since ibises moved to the cities, and that these birds need protection.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Irk and Irma, the white ibises

Also known as:
Australian white ibis, black-necked ibis, sacred ibis, dump bird, sicklebird

Threskiornis molucca

white_ibis_1 (33K) Well, hello. We are Irk and Irma, two of the white ibises around Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.

We used to live in Brisbane city in the park outside City Hall, until the city council hired a wedge-tailed eagle to drive us out. But now we're living at an even better and more exclusive place — the Golden Pond wetlands that run into Calamvale Creek.

Where do we hang out?

We have adapted well to all areas of the creek and wetlands. Most other ibises around here spend most of their time around the two wetlands at Golden Avenue. But Irk likes the murk of the drainage system, so we often start our day at a northern stormwater drain and work our way down to the creek (see photo below).

Threskiornis_molucca_5 (44K)

Because we are large birds, we like to impress the smaller birds by flying to high branches. Irk likes to lurk around the tall trees beside the southern Golden Pond wetland. In the photos below you can see Irk, in the left photo, and Irma in the right photo.

white_ibises_2and3 (45K)

What do we like to eat?

white_ibis_4 (22K)In the city parks and shopping malls we steal food while people are still eating it. We particularly like cheeseburgers, ham sandwiches, Chinese takeaway, potato scallops, fried chicken, hot dogs with barbecue sauce, french fries with chicken salt, KFC, and any food scraps we can scrabble out of garbage bins.

But since we've been kicked out of the city, we are now going back to our traditional ibis meals:
Fish, crustaceans, frogs, snails, dragonfly larvae, small snakes, insects such as grasshoppers and beetles, and worms. They're OK when you get used to the taste. At least we don't have to worry about trans fats with our traditional food.

Why are we considered pests?

Some people find our large size intimidating. We are larger than some of the human kids who come to the area. Here's a photo of Little Bill on the wooden bridge over the creek. Irk has to smirk when he sees Little Bill constantly coming up with new ways to get food.

Threskiornis_molucca_6 (41K)

Little Bill is waiting for people to cross the bridge hoping they will think he is too skinny and needs some food.

We roost in groups, and this means we generate a lot of bird poo. When this is in parks or grass that people want to sit on, the area we use becomes almost uninhabitable for humans.

If we scrounge around dumps near airfields, pilots get worried that if they hit us we will damage plane engines or break windscreens.

Where do we nest?

white_ibises_cormorant_9 (26K)

We breed in closely packed colonies with other large waterbirds such as egrets, herons, straw-necked ibises, and spoonbills.

Our nests are rough, loose platforms of sticks usually in trees above water. Sometimes nests are so close together that they touch.

Irma lays 2-5 eggs when it's nesting time, and we both incubate the eggs for 20-23 days. Irk doesn't do much other work during this time. Our young leave the nest after about 48 days.

By the way, I should tell you how Irk got his name. It's the honking sound he makes when he talks. “Irk, urrk.” When Irk starts to urrk, Irma starts to murmur.

— Irk and Irma, the white ibises