The northern bald ibis – a bird that’s been critically endangered for more than 20 years and still tinkers on the very edge of extinction, but we’re helping to boost numbers!

The unusual looking birds are instantly recognisable by their bare face and head, long pointed beak and dark feathers.

The northern bald ibis was once found in large numbers across North Africa, southern and central Europe and the Middle East. The birds have since undergone a long-term decline and more than 98% of the wild population has been lost, putting the birds on the very brink of extinction. 

Their critically endangered status is a result of hunting, habitat loss, pesticide poisoning and an increase in construction works around their preferred nesting sites. Experts estimate that only 115 breeding pairs remain in the wild – in small populations in Morocco and Turkey. 

We joined a collaborative reintroduction programme in 2007 with other conservation organisations around the world in a bid to save them from extinction in the wild. We’ve made great efforts to breed the species so that they can eventually go on to be released back into a safe, secure and monitored site in southern Spain with the hope that they will go on to successfully breed and give the species a strong foothold in Europe.

Our colony of northern bald ibis can be found in our Europe on the Edge habitat.

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Interesting facts

Conservation status: They are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Where they live: Morocco and Turkey

Habitat: Wetlands, Savannah

Diet: Small mammals, small amphibians, insects and leaves

Threats: Predators, habitat loss and hunting and pesticides. Numbers are very slowly increasing due to management actions and breeding successes

Scientific name: Geronticus eremita