Northern bald ibis breeds in Spain

This video from Spain is called Ibis eremita (northern Bald Ibis) Geronticus eremita.

From Wildlife Extra:

Northern Bald ibis breeding in Spain

Reintroduction programme providing useful insights into Bald ibis ecology – Our thanks to Proyecto Eremita for this information and the images

June 2013. After the news from Syria that the Northen Bald ibis population there is now functionally extinct (Just one bird returned to Syria this year), some better news from the breeding and reintroduction project in Spain. The programme in Spain (Proyecto Eremita) has been releasing a few birds in Andalucia over the last few years; by 2012 the population had grown to more than 70 birds.

The 2012 project began with a total of 73 free flying birds (37 males and 36 females). The group was divided between two feeding and resting areas. As usual, the group moved through the grasslands near the release site, which are used exclusively for farming. The second foraging area was a golf course and a fighting bull farm located 11 km away from the aviary. This is very close to the former lagoon of La Janda, an important ecological site. The majority of the birds used both areas although some individuals only moved in one area. It is important to note that the birds during this year did not receive any supplementary feeding.

Bird releases

During 2012 a total of 37 birds were released, 11 from Zoobotánico in Jerez, 17 from Doue la Fontaine (France), 3 from Selwo Zoological Park (Málaga) and 6 juveniles from the release aviary (Retín) where a captive breeding group is maintained.

The releases were divided into three groups. The first group was released in February and was formed by 13 juveniles hatched in 2011 in Zoobotanico Jerez and the Retín aviary. A second group of 7 juveniles, from Doue la Fontaine, was released in May. The third group, released in December, belonged to a group of 17 juveniles born in 2011 and 2012 from Doue and Jerez, as well as some birds hatched in the Retín aviary.

For all three groups the release procedure was similar. The aviary was left open to allow the birds a relaxed exit. This avoids the phenomenon of stampede which can increase bird loss. In this way birds were integrated easily into the free-flying group.

This year, the number of hand-reared birds (10) was lower than the parent-reared birds (27). In 2012 the hand-rearing method was stopped, but there was some supplementation of parent-reared birds. The successful release of parent-reared birds would therefore not have been achieved without the established (hand-reared) core population.


During the former breeding season (2011), three different nesting areas were identified. However in 2012, however, only one site was used for nesting, at Vejer cliff. This inland cliff is located at Vejer de la Frontera (Cádiz) 15 km away from the Retín release site. A total number of 10 breeding pairs settled on this cliff, while two more couples came through the area on several occasions but failed to build a nest. The resulting ibis breeding success in 2012 was low, and may have been due to a number of factors.

Predation by rats & lack of insects

Predation by rats on at least 4 nests prompted individuals to leave the nest. Furthermore, two nests lost chicks after suffering from an ectoparasitic infestation of mites (Dermanyssydaey). Notably low breeding success in 2012 was also seen in other bird species in the area, (the Lesser Kestrel and White Stork), that have similar foraging habits. The spring of 2012 was unusually dry and this may have resulted in the scarcity of big insects as a reliable food source and therefore lower breeding success of the ibis and other species.

Losses and mortality

A total of 37 birds were lost in 2012 due to several reasons. Of them, 26 were found dead by causes detailed in Graph 1, and another 11 birds were assumed dead but their corpses were not recovered to determine cause of death. This year, most of the ibis losses happened around the time of an unusually heavy storm sometime after the March release of birds.

9 thoughts on “Northern bald ibis breeds in Spain

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