Indigenous landscaping & garden design
in Johannesburg & Pretoria, South Africa

Hadedas in the garden

  • Hadedas in the garden

    Hadedas stir up many emotions for Gauteng residents. Below we unpack a bit more about hadedas in the garden. Please feel free to add your own experiences with hadedas in our comments section below

    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.

    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.

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

    261 comments on “Hadedas in the garden”

    1. There is a group of hadadas that visit my garden daily. One of them has always looked scruffy and smaller than the rest. He is a very scrappy bird that often gets picked on by his peers but gives as good as he gets. He seems to eat and drink well (from what I can see) but his scruffy looking feathers bother me. Could there be something wrong with him?

      1. Hi Natasha

        Thanks for visiting our site.

        Birds that are a little smaller than the rest with scruffy-looking feathers are usually juveniles. I think what you're experiencing is a youngster being toughened or disciplined rather than being picked on.

        Enjoy your wildlife experiences.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    2. I love my hadedas and I make sure they have water and feel safe. However one of them I assume dad looks a bit scruffy with some messy feathers around and I notice walking with a bit of difficulty and one leg is lift when he is resting: he can fly still and he was grassing on my lawn but I wonder what I can do to help him

      1. Hi Ana

        Thanks for visiting our site.

        It sounds like your resident hadeda has an injured foot. It could be battling with the infection which is has detracted from his preening frequency hence the scruffy feathers.

        Apart from providing a safe space and water, you probably should just have to allow him time to heal.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    3. We have 2 Hadedahs that have been in our garden for about 4 years. The Hadedahs have built a nest in one of our trees and every year they have about 6 eggs and the babies hatch but they all end up on the ground dead and was wondering if we should so something. Is that normal, so we dismantle the nest? It's not a very sturdy one or do we put a net to catch the little one

      1. Hi Desire

        Thanks for visiting our site.

        The hadedas will have a successful brood if the conditions are favourable so we'll have to wait patiently and allow nature to run its course. There could be several factors for the loss of the chicks - wind or predators are the most common reasons in suburban gardens.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    4. We seem to have a young Hadeda in our garden that can't fly. It doesn't appear to be visibly hurt though. I think the mom or another adult Hadeda keeps making a ton of noise and comes to check on the young one and seems a bit distressed that it's not flying.

      I don't want someone to come and fetch the young one to check on it because I don't want it separated from its mom (if that is the mom) because she seems very protective and stressed.

      Could you please help with some advice? We really don't mind them in our garden as we have quite a lot of them here but I'm worried about this one.

      Thank you!

      1. Hi Leigh

        Thanks for visiting our site.

        Hopefully by now, your young Hadeda has started flying and is safely perching in a tree.

        Sometimes the chicks fall out of the nest before they can fly. As you've witnessed, the parents are usually close by and feed it on the ground until it is strong enough to fly to a place of safety. In these instances, it's best to leave them and if necessary, keep any pets away from the area. It is usually only for a few days as the chicks develop relatively fast.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

        1. Hi I have a pair of hadedas in my garden. I was just checking on them. I know they have a chic approx 20cm high. But when I checked today there seems to be a very much younger chic in the same nest. Am I seeing this. I tried googling with no answer. Is this possible, or are my eyes deceiving me.

          1. Hi Michelle

            Thanks for visiting our site.

            Hadedas can lay between 2 and 5 eggs which hatch at different intervals. The size difference could possibly because you're looking a a younger chick in the nest that you perhaps overlooked previously.

            Flourish!
            Glenice

    5. Hi there
      I want to use slug pallets to save my vegie garden and plants, but dont want to harm the Hadida family that lives in my garden. Will they eat the pallets or dead slugs? or should it be safe to use? Will appreciate any advise.

      1. Hi Hanlie

        Thanks for visiting our site.

        Slugs and snails generally eat dead plant material and are useful decomposers so having a few in the garden is not a bad thing. I've found that mulching around seedlings usually helps save most seedlings. It's natural to suffer some losses with any young plants, so do not be discouraged.

        I try to avoid the application of pesticides in my domestic garden and prefer to manually remove nasty bugs if the plants are being severely affected.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    6. On 19 November, I spoke about Sandy disappearing. Well, she's back!!! Came to her usual place and gobbled her food, which we had continued to put out for her. Was so excited to see her. I take it she's got babies because she's not here again this morning. But so happy she's fine. I hope she brings her baby/babies here when they're mobile. Not sure if they do this? 🙏😁 Regards, Mo

      1. Hi Mo

        Thanks so much for your encounter and positive update.

        Enjoy your garden and wildlife.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    7. It started with a hadeda, now known as Sandy, pecking at my dog's bowl on our patio, whether it was empty or had overs. So I started to dish up some food in another bowl and put it higher up. And so Sandy came everyday to eat. She even started to come in the mornings too. She has been coming for months. She has even walked into my house but suddenly got a little nervous and quickly turned and walked out, despite the fact that it was only me in the house sitting very still. A few other hadedas have called around and eaten from the bowl too sometimes, but Sandy is the only one who allows me to hold the bowl when she eats...that's how I know it's her. Now, over the last 4 days, I haven't seen her. I'm feeling anxious and worried. Could she have disappeared for whatever reason and could come back or does it mean what I don't want to believe?

    8. We live in Cape Town and have just had a hadeda experience that filled us with so much joy and hope but ended in heartbreak and tragedy.

      Our dog was barking at something in our backyard one evening nearly a week ago. The something turned out to be a fledgling hadeda. We thought that the bird would fly off once it had overcome the trauma of its close encounter with Shadow, the chabrador , but the next morning it was still there.

      We could see that it was a young bird and I called the SPCA for advice. A lovely lady said that if possible, we should just let it remain in our backyard until it would be ready to fly, probably within the next few days.

      While on the call, the mommy hadeda came to check up on the fledgling and that was when we decided that he could stay as long as he needed.

      My husband, our teenage boys and I vigilantly accompanied our two very patient doggies outside to make sure that they didn’t go near Harry. His mom came to visit a few times a day and it was a joy to hear hear her call and see his excitement before she swooped down to spend a bit of time with him.

      Harry crept into our hearts as he seemed so determined to make it out of our backyard. He walked around the pool, flexing his wings and practiced his flying by taking off from the pool pump and a stack of logs. He became more adventurous and his confidence grew as he did.

      The first thing I did in the morning was to check if Harry was still here as he seemed stronger every day and each day we were hopeful that this would be the day he flies off with his mom instead of sadly watching her leave without him.

      But alas, this morning (six days after he arrived) I woke up, went outside and couldn’t see him. My first thought was that he had flown off but as I turned to walk back into the house, I saw his beautiful, lifeless body. My heart broke.

      I went inside and told my husband and boys. With heavy hearts and tears in their eyes, they dug a hole and before they put him into the box which they had sourced for his coffin, Harry’s mom came down to and sat on the wall in her usual spot. She gave a few cries and then flew off again.

      Hopefully she realised that Harry was no more and that she does not come to look for him again because that will just break my heart all over again.

      Harry didn’t look like he had been attacked. It was a bit cold and it was very windy last night but we will never know what caused Harry to die.

      All we know is that we gave him the best chance that we could at survival and that he gave us so much joy in the few days that he was in our lives.

      This was not the happy ending that we had hoped for Harry but maybe it was better for him to spend his last few days in peace and safety.

      Goodbye, Harry. We will never forget you…

      1. Hi Nikki

        Thanks for visiting our site and sharing your tribute to Harry.

        I'm so sorry that your experience didn't have a happy ending but hope the couple manage to rear another brood this season.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    9. I have a hadeda in my garden that has wire tied around its beak. Please can you advise on how to catch it so I can remove the wire so it is able to eat and drink. I have tried to catch it since Tuesday however I cannot get close enough to throw a towel / blanket over it as it flies off very quickly.

      1. Hi Andrea

        Thanks for visiting our site.

        Capturing wild birds is best done by an expert in wildlife rehabilitation so it would be best to contact your local wildlife rehabilitation centre for assistance. If you're in Johannesburg, try Friends of Free Wildlife.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    10. My "Bird Buddy" as I call my frequent hadeda visitor let's me know he's around by coming to tap on my sliding door with his beak. Not sure why he does this but I know then he's around doing pest control in the garden or having a dip or drink in the basin left for him after I saw him taking a dip in the one I had soaked my orchids in.

      1. Hi Sue

        Thanks for visiting our site and sharing your experiences with your feathered friend. We are fortunate to have close encounters with the wildlife sharing our gardens and it's fascinating watching their mannerisms.

        The tapping on the window could be because he sees his reflection in the glass and is trying to interact with the "other" bird.

        It's great that you've provided a water source which probably services many other creatures.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    11. I'm at my wits end. The hadeda's keep pulling all my seedlings out. I've tried applying mole repellent around the seedlings and have even tried dropping moth balls around the seedlings but nothing deters them. Most of my primulas are so damaged that they cannot be replanted. Any advice beside a gun....

      1. Hi Pete

        Thanks for visiting our site and sorry to hear about your predicament.

        The birds are merely relishing the opportunity to find food easily in your recently cultivated soft and worm-rich soil. Work with them as they're beneficial to have in your garden for slug and snail control. I'd recommend planting your seedlings with minimal soil disturbance and cover them with chicken mesh for about two weeks immediately after planting so that they can root sufficiently. Also, avoid planting the entire garden in one go as it then becomes a feast and the birds will linger for a lot longer.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

      2. Hi,
        I have a Hadeda that lives in my garden.
        Its injured its foot which looks cut and infected.
        Can it be caught somehow and treated?
        Should I try catch it somehow and take it to the spca?
        not sure how to catch it though - any suggestions?
        Regards
        Byron

        1. Hi Byron

          Thanks for visiting our site.

          It may be best to contact your local bird rehabilitation centre or the SPCA for assistance in catching the bird as they will have experience in this and not cause further stress to the creature.

          All the best.
          Glenice

    12. I have a family of Haededas that live in my pine tree...then on weekends the extened family comes to visit..
      Sometimes 12 or more.

      I need to find out something. I often get new chicks..and the parent sort of growls at the baby. I was fascinated by the sound.

      Today is a sad day...i found one parent dead in my garden...the other parent has not come home.
      And I have a chick sitting in my kitchen eating my dogs pellets. I saw it earlier way up the tree trying toflap its little wings & crying.
      I have got hold of a lady who told me what to feed it.

      1. Hi Heather

        Thanks for visiting our site and sharing your experience with this beautiful birds.

        Sorry for the loss. Hopefully the missing parent returns soon.

        The "growling" noise made by an adult to a juvenile bird is most commonly heard when the youngster is ready to become independent and the parents are trying to discourage them from begging for food.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    13. My Hadida pair had a baby in November 2022 and it left the nest on 03 January 2023.

      Walked around in the yard all the time and seemed healthy.

      It rained for 2 days and last night was very cold.

      This morning I found him lying dead under the tree with the dad peck pecking on it trying to get some response.

      Could it be the wet cold weather that caused it to die?

      1. Hi Ramona

        Thanks for visiting our site and sharing your experience with these fascinating birds.

        Sorry to hear about the loss of your resident chick which may have suffered from hypothermia as a result of the cold and wet conditions.

        Hopefully your pair manages another brood soon.

        Flourish!
        Glenice

    14. We have 2 hadedas that have built a nest high up in a tree using twigs and a fair amount of thatch off our lapa. It has been exciting to watch the chick develop. We even found the egg shell! Chick has lost its down now and looks like it will be getting ready for the big bad world soon. We are fascinated by the variety of sounds the chick makes. Very privileged to witness the chick's development.