Distribution and Habitat

Northern Bald Ibis: habitat and distribution


Formerly widespread almost certainly throughout North Africa and into the Middle East (Morocco to Algeria, Turkey Syria and Iraq). Since the beginning of the 20th century the species has been divided as two disjunct wild populations: a western population in Morocco and eastern population in Turkey and Syria. Accounts of historic colonies in the Alps were given by Gesner (1555) for Switzerland, Germany, Austria. The species disappeared during 16th/17th century. The reasons for its disappearance are poorly understood but hunting, changes in the environment and climate are most likely.


The Eastern population is migratory. The birds in Turkey previously left their breeding grounds in late June/early July and returned in February. The Syrian birds migrate south to NE Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan). They return to Syria in February and leave again in June/July.

Western population: Birds in Morocco are dispersive and movements appear erratic – however not much is known and there are only few winter observations from Mauritania and even across the Sahara in Mali. Most birds from the Atlas left their breeding areas but stayed in Morocco. The birds of the Souss Massa population seem to be fairly resident there but dispersion may occur from September to January.


The NBI lives in semiarid – arid rocky plains. It also uses cultivated fields and meadows and extensively used pastures and farmland. The breeding sites are on cliffs and often close to rivers or at the sea. The NBI sometimes lived and lives in association to man however they are severely affected by disturbance and are very shy because of hunting. Vegetation has to be sparse or not taller than 15-20cm. Change in cultivation may lead to quick abandonment of feeding areas and nesting grounds. The NBI is not so much an optical hunter but more a gleaner and probing for prey and a soft surface seems to be very important.

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