Bald Ibis Search Continues [Archives:1997/47/Last Page]

November 24 1997

Last February the Yemen Times published an article inviting readers to join in the search for the Bald Ibis. Based on reports that a colony of these rare birds had been seen in the vicinity of Yarim in the 1970’s, the Yemen Ornithological Society posted a YR 10,000 reward for information leading to the rediscovery of nesting Bald Ibises in Yemen. Two readers responded to the request with reports of these birds in northern Somalia, and Al Radda. As there was no incontestable evidence of a nesting colony, the reward which has since been increased to YR 25,000, remains unclaimed.
The Bald Ibis is one of the world’s rarest birds with a wild population of around 200, most of which live in Morocco. Sadly, 38 dead Bald Ibis were found in Morocco in May 1996, at Souss-Massa National Park. This calamity reduced the wild population by as much as 20%. The race to locate undiscovered populations of this critically endangered species is therefore more urgent.
The only other known population of Bald Ibises is a semi-wild colony at Birecik, Turkey. During the summer, the Turkish birds are free-flying, while in the winter they are locked in cages to protect them during the lean winter months. Each winter, some of the Turkish birds disperse to unknown regions. Also, each year there are reports of Bald Ibises in parts of East Africa and the Middle East. It is possible that the Bald Ibises which are occasionally recorded in Eritrea, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen come from Birecik. Some researchers believe, however, that these birds are unlikely to fly so far, and originate from an as yet undiscovered colony, possibly in Yemen.
Bald Ibises are large, dark birds with an iridescent sheen to their plumage. The adults are distinctive for their unfeathered heads, and the fringe of long shaggy plumes on their necks. They are quite long-legged, with a long down-curved beak. Bald Ibises nest in colonies on cliff ledges, sometimes, as in Turkey, quite close to human habitations. They feed on invertebrates in open marshy areas and cultivated fields. This summer, a Turkish researcher ringed 57 Bald Ibises at Birecik to help solve the mystery of the disappearing birds. Each of these ibises was fitted on its left leg with a metal ring bearing the letters ‘TR.’ Anyone who sees a Bald Ibis in Yemen (or elsewhere) is asked to report the details of their observations to the Yemen Ornithological Society at: P.O. Box 2002, Sanaa