Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 June 2022 | 14(6): 21315–21317


ISSN 0974-7907 (Online) | ISSN 0974-7893 (Print)

#7896 | Received 24 February 2022 | Final received 18 May 2022 | Finally accepted 25 May 2022




New breeding site record of Oriental White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus (Aves: Threskiornithidae) at Thirunavaya wetlands, Kerala, India


Binu Chullakattil


Department of Zoology, NSS College, Manjeri College (PO), Manjeri, Malappuram, Kerala 676122, India.




Editor: H. Byju, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. Date of publication: 26 June 2022 (online & print)


Citation: Chullakattil, B. (2022). New breeding site record of Oriental White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus (Aves: Threskiornithidae) at Thirunavaya wetlands, Kerala, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 14(6): 21315–21317.


Copyright: © Chullakattil 2022. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  JoTT allows unrestricted use, reproduction, and distribution of this article in any medium by providing adequate credit to the author(s) and the source of publication.


Funding: None.


Competing interests: The author declares no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: I am grateful to the NGO Re Echo standing for the conservation of Tirunavaya wetland and the local people of Tirunavaya for their sincere support during the study period.




The Oriental White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus (Latham, 1790) is a globally threatened species (Birdlife International 2021), coming under the family Threskiornithidae of the order Pelecaniformes. This wading bird is also called the Indian White Ibis, Black-headed Ibis or Black-necked Ibis. It is a widespread resident species across the Indian subcontinent, known to breed in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar (Ali & Ripley 1968; Hancock et al. 2001; Grimmet et al. 2011). In the recent past, the population of the species has declined and continues so worldwide due to various anthropogenic reasons. The species is listed in the Near Threatened category of the IUCN Red List (Birdlife International 2021). In Kerala, the bird species was rare until the mid-1990s and now has become a regular in most of the wetlands (Sashikumar et al. 2011). Meanwhile, scientific information on the population and ecology of this near-threatened species is scanty except for a few reports. The present study is the first breeding record reported from the Malappuram district of Kerala state.

In Kerala, the first breeding record of the species was reported from Wayanad district (Balakrishnan & Thomas 2004); the area is well-known as Panamaram heronry. The second breeding report came from Kottayam district (Kumarakom) (Narayanan et al. 2006), which recorded a good breeding population. A recently small breeding population was noted at Palakkad district (Roshnath et al. 2017), Thiruvananthapuram Zoo (Bindya et al. 2019), and from Mavoor wetland, Kozhikode district (Shifa 2021).

Thirunavaya wetland (11.001N, 75.991E), is situated in the Malappuram district of Kerala state. The wetland is mainly an uncultivated paddy field and it is very close to the northern bank of the Bharathapuzha River, one of the largest rivers in Kerala. It spreads over nearly 150 ha bifurcated into two halves by the railway track. The wetland is also known for the cultivation of lotus flowers. One side of the wetland is modified into human habitation. The wetland is flooded during the south-west monsoon (June–September). During other seasons the wetland is extremely marshy. A small canal flows through the area. The margin of the canal is covered with a large number of screw pines (Pandanus sp.) which are also utilized by Openbill Stork for nesting. Being a breeding ground for Oriental White Ibis, Openbill Stork, and the ‘Near Threatened’ Oriental Darter, the wetland also acts as potential foraging habitat for a variety of water birds including Little Cormorant, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Common Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Purple Heron, Pond Heron, Grey Heron, and other wetland associated avifauna.

Generally, the breeding period of Oriental White Ibis is in the monsoon season from June to September (Arif & Basheer 2012; Shifa 2021); the late breeders extend their breeding period from September to April (Narayanan et al. 2006). The nesting of Oriental White Ibis was noticed in October 2021 during a bird survey in Thirunavaya Wetland. The breeding plumage of the adult ibises and the begging behaviour of fledglings for food are very unique features to detect them as an active breeding colony. At the first observation itself  all nestlings grew up into fledglings. Overall, eight nests were observed during the surveys. Out of which four were of Oriental White Ibis, three were of Openbill Stork, and one of Oriental Darter nest. The breeding site was observed weekly for three months from October to December. For observation Nikon binoculars (10 x 40) were used. Photographs were taken by the Nikon P1000 model. The tree species used for colonial nesting is Barringtonia acutangula. The height of the nest tree is 4m from the wetland. The water level is < 0.5m and covered by the invasive species Salvinia molesta. The GBH of the nest tree is 0.84 m and the width of canopy coverage is 1.69 m. The nests are made up of locally available twigs and grasses. The availability of food and low predation risk, as well as reduced anthropogenic stress, maybe the reasons for the selection of this breeding site.

 The average height of the nesting tree species at Kumarakom wetlands, Kottayam district was 02.59 ±0.66 m from the water level (Narayanan et al. 2006), and in Panamaram, Wayanad district was 7±0.45 m (Balakrishnan & Thomas 2004); in Thiruvananthapuram Zoo the nest height is 6 m from the ground (Bindya et al. 2019), whereas in Palakkad district it is 5 m (Roshnath et al. 2017). The studies in Calicut district (Shifa 2021), did not measure the exact nest height. The present study shows certain deviations from the results of the above records. In Thirunavaya wetlands Oriental White Ibis used an average nest height of 3.18±0.49 m. The wetland heronry is a communal breed site that bears an association of two species, Openbill Stork and Oriental Darter. Ibises bears a population count of eight adult parents and nine fledglings. Among Openbill Storks six adult parents and five young ones occur, whereas among Oriental Darter two adult parents and two young ones occur. 

 The Thirunavaya wetland is a feeding and breeding ground for a large number of avifauna including near-threatened species like Oriental White Ibis, Painted Stork, Oriental Darter, and Wooly Necked Stork; moreover, it is an abode for thousands of migratory birds. The spoting of large colonial nesting of Asain Openbill Stork is also witnessed  the importance of this fragile ecosystem. Around 120 nests were counted by the survey conducted by Re Echo, an environmental organization in Thirunavaya. The proposed Silverline Railway Project is passing through this wetland, which will probably lead to an ecological disaster for the wetland in the future.



Table 1. Breeding of waterbird species in Thirunavaya heronry during October–December 2021.



Total no. of nests

Total no. of fledglings

Nesting success

Oriental White Ibis




Oriental Darter




Openbill stork




*Nesting success: nest with at least one fledgling (Mayfield 1975).



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