A flock of Hadada Ibises (Bostrychia hagedash (Latham, 1790)) (Ciconiiformes: Threskiornithidae) in the Bredon Hill area of Worcestershire during 2005
Paul F. Whitehead
Moor Leys, Little Comberton, Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 3EH email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This account stems from an observation that took place over seven years ago and deals with a Worcestershire sighting of a group of Hadada Ibises Bostrychia hagedash (Latham, 1790), an African member of the stork family for which there are apparently no published British records of wild birds. As any scientist will confirm, there is an onus of responsibility to publish data and these might, at some later date, be placed in the context of changing population dynamics. There is some evidence to suggest that Hadada Ibises are presently expansive and in parts of South Africa they are domesticated scavengers. In Africa the species has a huge sub-Saharan range extending in the north to Ethiopia.
At 21.25 hrs near to dusk on 6 June 2005 an extraordinary cacophony of sound was heard approaching Little Comberton settlement from the south (SO 94 30 m O.D.). As the sound drew nearer people stopped working on their allotments and gathered to await sight of what might be producing it. Eventually six birds were observed, gaining height from the south and overflying the edge of the village following the low contours of Bredon Hill; the syncopated cacophony can only be described as reminiscent of football rattles. The exact flight-call sound [not the frequently-used raucous single crow-like call] can be heard at 24 seconds into the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErhMjSevu14&feature=related and at 30 seconds into the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7mUevTfJnE&feature=player_detailpage.
Fortunately one of the birds peeled off to within 300 m of me when it was possible to see from its extended neck and down-curved linear beak that it was a rather chunky-looking ibis; the wings however seemed to be somewhat rounded and the rather languid flapping flight showed a very slight rolling motion without any extended glides. Due to the poor light I can only describe the birds as being 'dark' and appearing somewhat larger than a crow. Having little idea of which ibis they might be I contacted Harry Green since one of them passed over his home. I was later informed by Brett Westwood that they could well be African Hadada Ibises which are named onomatopoeically. This was confirmed when I subsequently heard sound recordings.
All the birds were evidently in good condition and showed marked social cohesion. They seemed to have arisen from a point along the wooded foot-slopes of Bredon Hill nearer to Elmley Castle, to have over-flown Little Comberton and then continued over Great Comberton, which might have taken them to the floodplains of the River Avon.
Hadada Ibises are occasionally kept in captivity in European collections. The related African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus (Latham, 1790) is naturalised in continental Europe after having escaped from collections there and is now showing up more frequently in Britain