Northern Bald Ibis, Waldrapp, Bald Ibis, Hermit Ibis
Geronticus eremita by Karyn deKramer(8 in. x 8 in. | Watercolor (sealed & mounted on canvas) | ID#3836)
Family: THRESKIORNITHIDAE | Conservation Status: Critically Endangered | Population Trend: decreasing
The Northern Bald Ibis is a quirky, prehistoric-looking bird once abundant and revered. At first glance, one might find the patchy, bald head a bit ugly. Look closer and you will see a beautiful golden eye, and brilliant iridescent feathers of greens, reds, violets, bronzes and black. Further inspection might lead one to appreciate the amusing, spiked head dress of feathers and how it expresses the character of this social bird. The feathered cape on back of the head is balanced with a long protruding red-orange bill built to capture insects in long grasses. The Bald Ibis is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red list. It once had an extensive range stretching across northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Remaining populations can be found in Morocco. Reintroduction efforts in Spain and Austria are ongoing. The Bald Ibis has been idolized, revered, symbolized, prized for taste, poisoned, persecuted, and nearly forgotten. Ancient Egyptian pharaohs revered this bird as a symbol of fertility, virtue and afterworld divinity (spirit). The hieroglyph Akh is thought to represent the Bald Ibis. Ancient Christian text refers to it as a messenger of fertility and one of the first birds released by Noah. The Bald Ibis once migrated from Africa to the Mid-East in such large numbers that southern Haj pilgrims reportedly regarded them as a guide to Holy Makah. In Europe, the Prince-Archbishop Leonhard of Salzburg 1442-1519 is said to have promulgated a decree to protect the Bald Ibis – perhaps one of the first movements of conservation. His decree failed to stop the decline. Historically, young chicks were prized for their taste. Habitats were reduced and degraded for agriculture and pesticides poison them. Today researches track and follow remaining populations of this bird that few have seen. Captive breeding and conservation programs continue an ongoing attempt to bring the Bald Ibis back from the edge of extinction.
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