Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)

Cover photo: Hadada Ibis – BirdPix 101445 – Neels Jackson

Identification

The Hadada Ibis gets its name from its loud three to four note call uttered in flight, especially in the mornings and evenings when they fly out or return to their roost trees. The calls of Hadada Ibises are considered a sign of approaching rains in parts of Lesotho.

It is a large, grey-to-partly brown bird. Males and females are alike in plumage. It has a narrow, white, roughly horizontal stripe across its cheeks. This is sometimes called the “moustache” though it does not reach the mouth corners. The feathers on its wings have an iridescent green and purple sheen and it has a long, curved greyish-black bill with a patch of red, only prominent during breeding season, on the top part of its bill.

Identification guide to Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash
Main photo: BirdPix 43707 – Anthony Paton, Bedfordview, Gauteng, 20 August 2016. Flying Hadada: BirdPix 44590 – Gregg & Desire Darling, Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape, 30 September 2017.

Habitat

The Hadada Ibis generally prefers open grassland with well-wooded valleys and patches of dense woodland (to use as nesting sites). It also occurs in forest clearings, wetlands with short grass, vleis, irrigated croplands, sports fields, pastures, and lawns in urban areas.

The distribution range of the Hadada has increased in southern Africa by nearly two and a half times in the 20th century due to the introduction of trees in habitats that were once treeless and the expansion of urban areas (and therefore gardens and parks). Irrigation projects may also have helped in their expansion as they appear to need moist and soft soils in which to probe for food.

Habitat for Hadada ibis
Probing for food on a grass lawn: BirdPix 105543 – Les Underhill, Cape Town, Western Cape, 09 February 2020.
Habitat for Bostrychia hagedash
Hadada habitats. Left: BirdPix 5338 – Darling Desire, Oyster Bay, Eastern Cape, 09 November 2013. Top right: BirdPix 11918 – Dave Kennedy, Krugersdorp, Gauteng, 14 December 2010. Bottom right: BirdPix 13121 – John Fincham, Katimo Molilo, Namibia, 02 August 2014.

Distribution

Hadadas occur across Africa south of the Sahel. In southern Africa, they are common northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern and southern Zimbabwe, Mozambique and much of South Africa, excluding parts of the arid Karoo. 

In South Africa the core of their range is in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, mainly in the areas with moist grassland habitats and easily accessible water sources. The map below displays the distribution data from the second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2).

SABAP2 distribution map for Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash
SABAP2 distribution map for Hadada Ibis, downloaded on 23 March 2022. Details on how to interpret the map can be found here.

The Hadada Ibis has increased in abundance across most of the western half of South Africa in recent decades. There is a paper in the journal Biodiversity Observations which demonstrates the changes between the first and second bird atlas projects, SABAP1 and SABAP2.

Behaviour

Hadada Ibises roost in groups in trees. They fly out in the mornings with loud calls and return in the evenings with regularity. They are monogamous, solitary nesters, and probably form a life-long pair bond.

They feed on insects, millipedes, earthworms, and other invertebrates, using their long scimitar-like bill to probe soft soil. Hadadas readily feed on snails and can clear garden beds around residential homes. A gardener’s best friend! They are particularly welcomed on golf greens because they are great at extracting moth and beetle larvae that feed on the roots of the grass and other vegetation.

Foraging habitat for Hadada Ibis
Foraging in a wetland: BirdPix 189067 – Pieter Cronje, Lake Naivasha, Kenya, 16 October 2021. Probing for food on a grass lawn: BirdPix 105543 – Les Underhill, Cape Town, Western Cape, 09 February 2020.

A Hadada’s nest consists of a platform of sticks with a central bowl lined with grass, lichen, weeds, leaves and other plant debris. It is typically placed in the fork of a horizontal tree branch, or occasionally on other suitable structures such cliffs, dam walls, or even telephone poles.

It lays 1-5 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 25-28 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and they leave the nest at about 33-40 days old, becoming fully independent at roughly 60 days old.

Nest of Bostrychia hagedash
Hadada Ibis on its nest: BirdPix 28794 – Dieter Oschadleus, Cape Town, Western Cape, 06 August 2016. 

Further Resources

Species Text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

Paper on change of range between SABAP1 and SABAP2

Other common names: Hadeda (Afrikaans); Ing’ang’ane (Xhosa); iNkankane (Zulu); Ibis hagedash (French); Hagedasch-Ibis (German).

A list of bird species in this format is available here.

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M and Daniel K 2022. Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2022/03/24/hadada-ibis-bostrychia-hagedash/

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.