Skip to content

69. Northern Bald Ibis

Geronticus eremita


The Northern Bald Ibis has a very distinctive appearance, with a bare red face, neck and throat and long, narrow feathers projecting from the back of the head and neck, forming a dark ‘ruff’.

Their numbers have continuously declined over the centuries due to unidentified natural events like climate cooling. Its family, the Threskiornithidae, dates back to fossil records from 60 million years ago, and it shares its genus, Geronticus, with only one other species.

Their decline has accelerated in recent decades due to pressures from human activities and the species now listed as Critically Endangered. A major population crash occurred in the 1950s with the introduction of pesticides, notably DDT. It disappeared from virtually all of its existing range apart from two sites in Morocco.

Conservation efforts were initiated in the 1970s and breeding individuals have since been located in Syria. One innovative conservation effort carried out by the Waldrapp team successfully hand-reared Northern Bald Ibises and released them into the wild by training them to follow a para-motor. This paved the way for a range of innovative release methodologies. Captive breeding programmes and recent satellite tracking has given greater insight into the biology and movements of the species, such that its survival looks positive. However, over 95% of truly wild birds are concentrated in one subpopulation in Morocco.

  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Threskiornithidae
  • Population: 200-249
  • Trend: decreasing
  • Size: 70-80 cm
  • Weight: 1-1.3kg

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.78 (?)
ED Score: 19.14 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Two populations exist in the wild, one in Morocco with a relict population in Syria and the Middle East.

Habitat and Ecology

Breeding typically occurs in dry areas of rocky terrain like cliffs and escarpments. Nests are often found near watercourses especially on river cliffs and sometimes sea cliffs. Ibises forage in groups on dry, rocky slopes and sandy banks, feeding on invertebrates, and small vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, fish, birds and rodents. Individuals may roost in trees or fields when not nesting. In the non-breeding season they are found in pastures, cultivated fields, and meadows, with a preference for open areas with short grass or sparse vegetation.

Find out more

Loading species distribution map...

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Urban development Droughts Crops Livestock Hunting Recreation Dams Ecosystem changes Native species Agriculture

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at: