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Australian White Ibis
(Larger version)
Scientific classification

The family Threskiornithidae includes about 30 species of large terrestrial and wading birds, falling into two subfamilies, the ibises and the spoonbills. It was formerly known as Plataleidae. The spoonbills and ibises are related to other groups of long-legged wading birds in the order Ciconiiformes, including the storks, the herons, and the flamingos.

Members of the family have long, broad wings with 11 primary feathers and about 20 secondaries. They are strong fliers and—rather surprisingly, given their size and weight—very capable soarers. The body tends to be elongated, the neck more so, with rather long legs. The bill is also long, decurved in the case of the ibises, straight and distinctively flattened in the spoonbills.

They are distributed almost worldwide, being found near almost any area of standing or slow-flowing fresh or brackish water. Ibises are also found in drier areas, including city rubbish tips. All are diurnal; spending the day feeding on a wide range of invertebrates and small vertebrates: ibises by probing in soft earth or mud, spoonbills by swinging the bill from side to side in shallow water. At night, they roost in trees near water. They are gregarious, feedng, roosting, and flying together, often in formation.

Nesting is colonial in ibises, more often in small groups or singly in spoonbills, nearly always in trees overhanging water, but sometimes on islands or small islands in swamps. Generally, the female builds a large structure out od reeds and sticks brought by the male. Typical clutch size is 2 to 5; hatching is asynchronic. Both sexes incubate in shifts, and after hatching feed the young by partial reguritation. Two or three weeks after hatching, the young no longer need to be brooded continuously and may leave the nest, often forming creches but returning to be fed by the parents.

  • Family Ardeidae, (herons, egrets, and bitterns)
  • Family Cochlearidae, (Boatbill)
  • Family Balaenicipitidae, (Shoebill)
  • Family Scopidae, (Hammerkop)
  • Family Ciconiidae, (storks)
  • Family Threskionithidae
    • Subfamily Threskionithinae
      • About 25 species of ibis in about 15 genera
    • SubFamily Plateinae
      • 5 species of spoonbill, all in the genus Platalea

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