Publication Details

Martin, J., French, K. O. & Major, R. (2012). Behavioural adaptation of a bird from transient wetland specialist to an urban resident. PLoS ONE, 7 (11),


Dramatic population increases of the native white ibis in urban areas have resulted in their classification as a nuisance species. In response to community and industry complaints, land managers have attempted to deter the growing population by destroying ibis nests and eggs over the last twenty years. However, our understanding of ibis ecology is poor and a question of particular importance for management is whether ibis show sufficient site fidelity to justify site-level management of nuisance populations. Ibis in non-urban areas have been observed to be highly transient and capable of moving hundreds of kilometres. In urban areas the population has been observed to vary seasonally, but at some sites ibis are always observed and are thought to be behaving as residents. To measure the level of site fidelity, we colour banded 93 adult ibis at an urban park and conducted 3-day surveys each fortnight over one year, then each quarter over four years. From the quarterly data, the first year resighting rate was 89% for females (n = 59) and 76% for males (n = 34); this decreased to 41% of females and 21% of males in the fourth year. Ibis are known to be highly mobile, and 70% of females and 77% of males were observed at additional sites within the surrounding region (up to 50 km distant). Our results indicate that a large proportion of ibis have chosen residency over transience both within the study site and across the broader urban region. Consequently the establishment of refuge breeding habitat should be a priority localised management may be effective at particular sites, but it is likely to have an impact across the broader population.



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