African Sacred Ibis – The next UK Invader?

You've probably heard of the harlequin ladybird and you've certainly seen a grey squirrel, but what about others that might be on their way? Some reports suggest the African Sacred Ibis could be on its way to invade the UK threatening some of our native wildlife.

Ibises have escaped from captivity and been seen in the wild in Europe since the 19th century, eg in Italy (Andreotti et al. 2001), but this remained a rare event until about the 1970s when it became fashionable to breed free-flying groups of ibises in zoological gardens. This led to a regular flow of escapes, which in turn led to the establishment of breeding pairs in the wild, and breeding populations have now become established in Spain, Italy and France, as well as on the Canary Islands. Stray birds have also been reported in other countries.

The Ibis is an opportunistic feeder which favours invertebrates, but also takes larger prey when available, including fish, amphibians, eggs and young birds an could cause devastation to species of reptiles, amphibians and birds already threatened through habitat loss and fragmentation.

Invasive non-native species are estimated to cost Britain around £1·7 billion a year, with 15% of new arrivals posing a threat to biodiversity, economy or society.

Stewart Parsons