Hadedas in the garden

The Hadeda Ibis does not rank highly as most people’s favourite garden bird, probably because of their raucous, trumpeting call that can build to a deafening cacophony.

The Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) is a large (76cm) bird with a brownish-grey head, nape and neck. Despite their seemingly drab appearance, their rump and wing feathers have a beautiful metallic purple and green sheen. They use their long, black bill to probe into the soil in search of earthworms.

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A visit from a hadeda is a sign of a healthy garden, teeming with smaller wildlife species. Their probing search assists with the aerating of soil and the control of insect populations. Apart from earthworms, their diet consists of slugs and snails, spiders, crickets, insects on the ground and small reptiles (lizards and frogs). They have been known to occasionally eat dog food from bowls. They will visit a ground level water feature to drink and bathe.

Despite their notorious racket, they are generally only vocal at dawn or when disturbed. It’s common to have 2 or 3 birds visiting the garden. As they are territorial, chances are you’ll have the same birds frequenting your garden. They are usually seen foraging in silence on the ground and if disturbed, will noisily fly to perch on roofs or tall trees. They build their nests in the fork of large trees usually 4-5 metres above the ground.

Another annoyance to some people is their large droppings which can mess paving. It will easily wash off with the spray from a hosepipe and makes a good fertiliser.

So next time you’re annoyed by a hadeda’s call, remember its important contribution to your gardening endeavours.

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*images courtesy of Neil Ebedes, www.ebedesbirds.co.za