After a 400-Year Absence, A Rare Ibis Returns to European Skies

Scientists claim that this project is the first in the world with an aim “to reintroduce a continentally extinct migratory species and to establish a new migration tradition.” And, now, they are really back!

In the last decade, scientists have helped reestablish a migrating population of northern bald irises in Europe. With its black body and wide wings, the bird flying along Austria’s Salzach Valley on a mild summer day looks, at first glance, a lot like a crow. But when it lands in a nearby meadow, it quickly becomes clear that this is a very different animal. The bird’s iridescent feathers give it an almost magical appearance. Its long, curved beak enables it to hunt for small animals, and its naked head, with feathers that point straight into the air, Mohawk-style, make it look like no other bird in Europe. This particular bird even has a name: Liethe. It is a waldrapp, or northern bald ibis, a species that is critically endangered in the wild. In former centuries, the species occurred widely in northern and eastern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, and parts of Europe. The ancient Egyptians revered the northern bald ibis as an afterworld divinity, and its likeness can clearly be seen in hieroglyphs dating back thousands of years. As a waldrapp matures, the unfeathered areas of it head and neck turn from grey to red. Today, however, all that’s left […]

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