String-free for Christmas.  Pity about losing that back toe.

Sweetie the Ibis is string-free for Christmas. Pity about losing that back toe.

This story has a happy ending.  In October 2011, during a walk in Tempe Reserve, we came across a young Ibis with a string injury.   She was a juvenile female & had string wrapped many times around her leg & between a few of her toes.  She was limping & in pain.  Council park workers were also concerned saying she had been like this for “at least 7-months.”  That would mean she was injured around February-March 2010.

Here is the above Ibis with string. Poor girl carried this around for at least 22-months.

Here is Sweetie’s foot with string. Poor girl carried this around for at least 22-months & lost her toe.  This string probably held up birthday balloons.

For the following couple of months we tried almost daily to catch her, but no luck.  The women from Inner West WIRES were great & came many times.  The RSPCA came & gave us some tips.  Seabird Rescue came twice.  Friends also gave of their time.  All up 8 Ibis & a couple of Crested Pigeons with fishing line or string injuries were caught.

Unfortunately we could not catch the original bird who we named Sweetie.  She was way too smart to fall for any of our tricks & once she realized what was on, would go & sit 30-metres away.  If we went towards her she would move until she was 30-metres away again – close enough to see what was going on, but far enough away to be safe.

Eventually the string amputated her back toe & she became really ill. It’s horrible to see a bird shaking from pain.  She survived & was left carting around a much smaller bunch of string.

Over the last year a local man called Paul started catching other injured Ibis who came to Tempe Reserve.  He uses a fly line for salmon fishing & has been very successful as the line is hard for the birds to see & easy for him to control.  In the last month he has caught a couple of Ibis whose legs were shackled by fishing line.  One of the birds took him 8-days to catch.  It’s a good deed & it brings him much joy when he is successful.

Injured birds are a trademark of Tempe Reserve.  Other parks along the river do not have shackled birds.  Where fishing prevails, such as around Tempe Reserve, the birds are the inevitable victims of lines irresponsibly discarded around the place.  I think of Tempe Reserve as Sick Bay for Ibis.

So back to Sweetie – on the 23rd December we saw her still with her bunch of string.  When we visited the next day she flew over & showed us a clean foot.  No string!  The bundle finally came lose & dropped from around her ankle.  What a great Christmas present & a great Christmas Eve!  A minimum of 22-months with a string injury, yet she survived.  What a spunky little Ibis.

Sweetie has started to lose her head feathers, which means she is turning into an adult, so now she has a chance of a good life.  She certainly deserves one.  Her toenails also need to be worn down & she will need to recover movement in her bad leg.

A severe injury.  This Ibis died.

A severe fishing line injury. This Ibis died after suffering for 2-months.  We did catch him, but were not quick enough to keep him.  One try is all you get with some birds.

From this experience we have met some wonderfully kind people who love our urban wildlife. We have fostered a relationship with the birds of Tempe Reserve & made great friends with a trio of Magpie chicks, which was very special.  Here is a short video of them –

We learnt about the park – which trees are used, who sleeps where, where the good food is & also how the park responds in all weather as we have been caught in many storms.  We also have learnt a lot about Ibis, a bird I was not really familiar with before.

We found Ibis to be kind birds.  They like to sit quietly with each other, with blue tongue lizards & with other birds.  They even like to sit with people if they like you.  Injured Ibis support each other & keep each other company.

If I were to say anything about Ibis it is that they like company, whether you have food or not.  They also like to hear singing & will cock their head sideways to listen better.  They are smart birds & can learn their own name.  Most of them can be trained to a degree.

They like to play with twigs & lengths of grass.  They also appreciate clean water & will gather in a neat circle near the fresh water tap waiting patiently until it is ready.  If there is water in a plastic dish, they will line up allowing each to take their own turn having a drink.

They weigh next to nothing despite their size & are quite strong & fast if they are trapped.  They understand what you are doing when you are trying to snip away line or string from their feet & will stay still watching what you are doing.  Try to grab their beak though & they will peck you, but this doesn’t hurt.  Their beak is not sharp, which is why they have so much trouble with line & string as they cannot cut, only pull.  Once you have freed them, they are a friend.  Paul has many Ibis friends. I know there will be quite a few people who will be happy to hear that Sweetie is finally free of string.

Some people hate Ibis & call them ‘tip birds’ or worse.  I have learnt to love & appreciate them & it has certainly been a great experience getting to know how they think & behave.  They love an opportunity for clean water and a wash. And they love walking about in the rain for a free shower.

There is so much discarded fishing line, string, elastic bands, nylon, balloons & other potentially dangerous litter at Tempe Reserve & it is only getting worse.  It is so easy for a bird to get their feet entangled in these things.  When it does happen it causes immense pain & suffering & most of the time the birds cannot free themselves.  As they tug at the string, it pulls tighter causing more pain.  So if you see any of these things while out on a walk, please pick them up.  You will very likely prevent injury to our wildlife.

I hope you all had a great Christmas Day despite the thunder, lightning & rain.  Jacqueline

Here is Paul the Ibis Rescuer hard at work.

Here is Paul the Ibis Rescuer hard at work.

This is Bumbala having thin nylon removed from around his toes.

This is Bumbala having thin nylon removed from around his toes. 

Another Ibis trailing a length of black nylon string.

Another Ibis trailing a length of black nylon string.


Tempe Reserve today - Christmas Day 2012.   I picked up string from the ground as well as removed string that was tied around the kiosk poles.

Christmas Day 2012 at Tempe Reserve. I picked up string from the ground as well as removed string tied around the kiosk poles.