Bin Chickens

Bin chickens is an Aussie slang term given to the much maligned white ibis.

The Australian white ibis is actually one of three ibis species that are native to Oz, but their emergence as urban dwellers is a relatively recent phenomenon

Bin chickens would normally feed on a wide range of food including yabbies, worms, grasshoppers and crickets and their “natural stronghold” was the Murray-Darling Basin (the largest river system in Australia spanning 4 states and 1 territory).

Ibis in its natural habitat
Photo by Emmy Silvius (CC BY-ND 2.0)

But after years of drought, the birds were forced to find new environments to feed and breed. This led them to the inner-city streets of Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, where their adaptability has seen them thrive.

Scavenging ibis
A common site in urban environs
Source: ABC

There is also a school of thought that the ibis adapted to city life after Sydney’s Taronga Zoo in the ’70s had a population of 14 ibis that were allowed to wander the grounds, encouraged to stay with daily meals. Naturally they started to breed freely and then expanded their habitat from the zoo to the Botanical Gardens, and then the city in general.

I’m not sure which is the true story (although I suspect it is probably both!).

While it seems the white ibis numbers are thriving, the overall number of white Ibis is actually declining. Even so, the ibis does have a bad reputation in city areas. Brisbane City Council became so frustrated with ibis in King George and Post Office squares that it hired a bird handler to scare them away using a wedge-tailed eagle.

The ibis won.

Have ibis made their way from wetlands to urban environments in your corner of the world?

8 comments on “Bin Chickens

  1. We do have some ibis here in Melbourne. I have mostly seen them in Sunshine, where there is a creek. I think “bin chicken” is a very disrespectful term for such a beautiful bird, connected always in my mind with Thoth, god of wisdom. Pity we don’t have a few ancient Egyptians around to wash out the mouths of the disrespectful!

    • I agree with you, Sue. I can’t bring myself to call them bin chickens. But in Brissie there were hundreds in King George Square (which isn’t that big a space for the numbers that would gather), so I can understand Council’s frustration with the scattered rubbish. They do look ungainly in urban environs, but they look so elegant when you see them in their natural environment.

  2. They sound a bit like the seagulls here. Just go to any school at lunchtime (pre-pandemic), and they were everywhere feasting on the trash the kiddos leave.

    • Our seagulls do that a bit as well. If you ever watch a cricket match on tv, there are always seagulls wandering the field. But all of our coastal towns have seagulls just waiting for you to have a picnic – especially if you have just bought fish and chips!

  3. Your White Ibis doesn’t look like our White Ibis. Ours is all white, except for orange legs and feet. They are ubiquitous here, in flocks of a few hundred. I very cold, for here, morning I went kayaking and saw about a thousand of them lined up on the side of the river.

    They also dig through our yard every once in a while.

    Our other ibis is a glossy blue, almost black.

    • We have 3 ibis, of the other two, one has reddish-brown body and shiny bottle-green wings and the other a distinctive, highly iridescent plumage which gets a multi-coloured sheen to it. Both are very pretty (prettier than the white one).

      I can imagine how amazing it must look on a cold, quiet morning like that.

  4. We don’t have ibis where I live. I’ll see the occasional great blue heron stalking through a pond, but they are definitely not nuisance birds. We have gulls at the landfill and lots of crows.

    • I think most everyone has one nuisance bird. We tend to have ravens rather than crows where I live, but we do get the occasional gull (although we are inland of the oceans so they must have been really confused!) at our rubbish tip.

Comments are closed.