The Northern Bald Ibis is nearly extinct although it is a symbol of abundance in the golden sands of the Mediterranean. It has always been considered a holy bird with a linage linked to Noah and his ark; as well as Thoth, the scribe of the Greek gods; and featured in the labours of Heracles as written by Herodotus.
This strange, magnificent bird is large, glossy black bird, 28–31 in long with a 49–53 in wingspan. The plumage is black, with bronze-green and violet iridescence, and there is a wispy ruff on the bird’s hind neck. But the face is dull red, clean shaven and looks as if it would feel like rubber. The males are a bit bigger than the females, or at least have a longer beak. In fact, it is considered more attractive to have a longer redder beak.
The ibis starts breeding at three to five years of age, and pairs for life. The male chooses a nest site, cleans it, and then advertises for a female by waving his crest and giving low rumbling calls. Once the birds have paired, the bond is reinforced through bowing displays. The northern bald ibis lives for an average of 20 to 25 years in captivity (oldest recorded male 37 years, oldest recorded female 30 years). The average age in the wild has been estimated as 10 to 15 years.
Unless there is a war and the birds are shot. Or the ground itself, the very surface of the earth where these birds forage for lizards and vegetation, is contaminated to the point that it is deathly to the birds. Then the lifespan is nil.
Syria keeps it’s Northern Bald Ibises in a very special camp. Turkey rounds up as many as they can each year before the birds ready themselves for migration, moving the birds to enclosures for the season.
There are so few Bald Ibises left that each country in this war torn part of the world, protects it’s small contingent of the holy bird of abundance.
Irony upon irony upon irony.
But what of these birds who are meant to soar through the sky, perch on dry cliff edges, wade on the side of the river? As humans we take so much away from our environment and when we try to save what we are in the process of destroying, it is like watching ice cream melt on the sidewalk on a cool day.