Australian White Ibis

Australian White Ibis are native wetland birds that have readily adapted to life in urban environments. They feed in urban areas such as dams, artificial lakes, parklands, sports ovals, schools and foreshores and have become accustomed to the presence of humans.

Australian White Ibis facts

The Australian White Ibis has gained national attention through its cultural labelling as the ‘Bin Chicken’ due to its grubby appearance. However, its dirty appearance is due to its physiological functions and physical traits. The Australian White Ibis does not possess the tools for preening itself.

  • Ibis lack the pectinate’ claw on the middle toe of each foot.
  • Its long beak is less nimble to complete the fine work of cleaning individual feathers
  • They do not have special down feathers that produce a fine, keratin-based powder, that gives many birds their glossy/shiny appearance.

Whether the Australian White Ibis is within its natural wetland environment or urban park, they will maintain this dirty appearance that has afforded them the name ‘Bin Chicken’.

What is council currently doing?

Moreton Bay Regional Council currently implements an adaptive management strategy, including manipulating urban habitats, restricting artificial food supplies, and management throughout the breeding season, that aims to achieve an equilibrium within the Australian White Ibis population.

In response to an increase in breeding locations throughout the local government area (LGA), Council in 2021 engaged the University of the Sunshine Coast to conduct research into the urban ecology of Australian White Ibis within the Moreton Bay Region.  The key areas of research include the following:

  1. Understanding of the movement ecology of Australian White Ibis in our region.
  2. What are the environmental characteristics? for optimal breeding habitat for the Australian White Ibis?
  3. Determine if the Australian White Ibis in our region are residential or mitigatory?

The objective of this research is to incorporate the findings into the sustainable management of Australian White Ibis.

To assist with answering these questions, the University of the Sunshine Coast will be working with Council, to capture and tag (wingtags and/or leg bands) up to 500 individual Australian White Ibis across the LGA.  In addition, they will be collecting blood samples and other measurements to determine genetic diversity, related lineage and general health of our colonies. 

The wingtags will allow tracking of the birds by researcher and resident via the citizen science app ‘Big City Birds’ (free app for smart devices).  Council encourages residents, visitors and business to report their sightings via the app.  

Urban Ecology Research FAQs

What colour is the tag?

Bright pink or blue cattle tags.  Below is an example of what the wingtags will look like on the Ibis.


Will the tags impact the ibis?

The research is being conducted under animal ethics, bird banding and other relevant approvals.

Where will researchers be tagging the Ibis? 

We will be targeting Australian White Ibis across several known colonies throughout the region.  The key areas will include Redcliffe, Caboolture, Bribie Island, Ningi, Griffin, and Morayfield. 

Will you be removing the tag from the Ibis?

Once the Ibis has been fitted with their tag/leg band, they will keep the tags for the duration of their lifespan.  Therefore, we could expect to see tagged Ibis in our region for a few years.

How will you capture the Ibis?

Ibis will be captured using a hand or throw net.  

What can residents do?

Managing Ibis populations and behaviours in urban environments can be achieved through:

  • cleaning up recreational cooking and eating areas within parks after use
  • not feeding Australian White Ibis or any other wildlife
  • limit access to food sources such as pet food and waste
  • report any Ibis roosting or nesting locations to Council
  • report any sightings of tagged Ibis on the ‘Big City Birds’ app (free app for smart devices)
  • report any deceased tagged Ibis to Council.