Strut, the straw-necked ibis
Also known as: farmer's friend, dryweather bird, black ibis
Hukk-ukk-hello. I'm Strut, the straw-necked ibis, standing beside the sediment basin at the Golden Pond wetlands upstream from Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.
We straw-necked ibises are large birds, and are strong fliers. We are extremely nomadic, so are likely to turn up almost anywhere in Australia except in arid parts and the south-west of Tasmania.
Where do we live?
We prefer freshwater wetlands, and swamp and lagoon margins, rather than coastal saltwater areas.
But we also get together in groups to scour grasslands and pastures for food. You can see me in the photo above with my family — Strurk and little Strawn — scouring the park surrounding the wetlands at Calamvale.
What do we like to eat?
We forage in the shallows of water bodies for small aquatic insects, frogs, molluscs, larvae, and other water animals.
On land we love to eat grasshoppers, locusts, and other insect pests in pastures and around crops. That's why we are known as the “farmer's friend”.
I spend up to 75 per cent of my waking time searching for food.
My long bill can probe for insects behind the loose bark on many trees, and is sensitive enough to find food on the surface and below shallow waters. Above you can see how we strut through the park looking for grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars and other delicious insects, as well as small lizards or snakes. We look quite academic with our black cap and gown, don't you think?
I like height
I love heights. When I come to a new area I always look for tall dead trees or tall living trees with strong bare branches to perch on.
Straw-necked ibises like to perch conspicuously high up against the sky. On cloudy days we can look spectacular silhouetted against the stormy sky — look at Strurk and me in the photo at right.
If you see me on a branch near you, here's a tip if you want to get a photo of me flying.
If you keep moving closer to me, eventually I will fly off. So have your camera focused as you slowly move closer. Just before I take off, I will croak, so when you hear that croak, you'd better be ready to click that shutter button a metre in front of me. As I take off, I will croak repeatedly — that's why my mouth is open in the photo below.
Where do I nest?
We have a variable breeding season. It's around March in northern Australia, but in the south it's normally between July and December.
We like to nest in areas that seasonally flood, so we will have plentiful food. Our nests are large, roughly interwoven platforms lined with soft grass and leaves, built in reeds or other vegetation beside the water. The male collects sticks and fibres, and the female weaves them into the nest, which may be re-used year after year.
We lay 3-5 dull, lime-white eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs for 20-25 days, and feed the young when they are born. Chicks can usually swim after three weeks, but don't start flying for about five. They fully mature when they are about two years old.
— Strut, the straw-necked ibis