Glossy Ibis

Plegadis falcinellus

Glossy Ibis in breeding plumage. Photo: John Spiers

The Glossy Ibis differs from other South Australian Ibises in being dark brown and not white. It is also much smaller and rarer. They occur in small flocks and can often be overlooked.

The Glossy Ibis feeds on adult and larval insects (aquatic insects. dragonflies. grasshoppers, crickets etc), worms, leeches and small vertebrates. Also feed on seeds of grain crops such as rice. Forages in small flocks by walking slowly and probing with the long bill.

Glossy Ibis in non-breeding plumage. Photo: John Spiers

Breeding occurs from October to February. Nests colonially often with other waterbirds such as herons. The nest is a platform of twigs and reeds lined with softer vegetation, placed on lower portions of bushes often only a few centimetres above water level, or in the thick foliage of trees. Clutch sizes are from 3-4 deep blue-green eggs. Chicks are sooty brown with some white on head and throat.


The Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, is monotypic having no races.



A small slender ibis with rich brown plumage. In breeding plumage, it has a purple and green iridescent gloss. Flight feathers and tail are black. The lores are cobalt-blue during courtship otherwise black bordered by pale blue line running from behind eye to base of lower mandible. Bill colour varies from grey to brownish. Leg colour also variable from dark brown to olive-grey. Non-breeding adults are duller with fine whitish streaks on head and neck. Immature like non-breeding adult but with oily green sheen.

Where to find it

Glossy Ibis are a rare to uncommon species in South Australia. They are most likely to be found in the Murray Mallee region along the River Murray and lakes Albert and Alexandria, or in the South East or North East of the state. They favour shallow freshwater lakes, swamps, sewage ponds, floodplains etc. They are less common in sheltered marine habits. They are also found in rice fields.

Glossy ibis are migratory and dispersive. Birds breeding in the SE tend to migrate north in autumn. Otherwise local movements are erratic.