South Africans tend to be dismissive about Hadeda Ibises (Bostrychia hagedash). We see them regularly over large parts of the country so, they are ‘just there’. Mind you, no-one can ignore their strident calls which can be ear-piercing if you are on the edge of sleep in the early hours of the morning or indulging in a quiet contemplation of the late afternoon. That is when they seem to be the noisiest – in town anyway. I am horrified by advice about getting rid of such ‘pests’ and the bad press these delightful birds get from people who hear the calls yet do not observe these birds closely enough to appreciate their character and, yes, their personalities. Anyway, why try to get rid of Hadedas when traffic continues to roar at all hours of the day?
I seldom see vehicles halted in a game reserve, for example, to watch Hadeda Ibises. Like the Cape Crows or Pied Crows – also large birds – visitors tend to take them in at a glance and move on, even if they are interested in birds. I was thus able to enjoy this pair of preening ibises to the full. Both have tiny bits of fluff or feathers sticking to the end of their long de-curved beaks.
Their grey-brown feathers are being lifted by the wind, while the sunlight just catches their patches of iridescence. In this photograph you can see that both wings are held slightly away from the body as the lower Hadeda tucks its beak under one to set the feathers right or, perhaps, to get rid of some annoyance.
Here it is bending its sinuous neck to do the same on the other side.
Apart from several Hadeda Ibises roosting in our garden, I often come across one or two foraging among the remaining shrubs and under trees where the soil has not yet baked hard. It is surprising that such a large bird can be so well camouflaged that I often hear the rustling of leaves before actually seeing one probing the leaf litter. They generally walk away quickly if I come too close, but occasionally rise up with a flutter, yelling blue murder, only to settle a little distance away as though nothing has happened to disturb them.