This bird is the Waldrapp Ibis!
The Waldrapp Ibis (Geronticus eremita) is distinctive bird possessing a long red bill, a flamboyant crest and beautiful green and purple iridescence. However, intriguing looks have not been enough to keep this bird from the endangered species list – it is critically endangered, with a wild population of fewer than 1000 birds.
As with most ibis species, the males possess a larger bill than females which can be used to identify the gender of a specific bird. Study has shown that males with larger beaks are more attractive to females and have greater likelihood for reproductive success. While this bird ideally nests in larger colonies, here at the Houston Zoo we have had great success producing chicks with a flock of less than 10 adults. We have produced 1-2 chicks annually for the past several years.
The Waldrapp Ibis (along with the Sacred Ibis) is widely regarded as a manifestation of Thoth, the Ibis-headed Egyptian God of Wisdom. Many birds revered in this sense serve as symbols of light, intelligence and power. Examples of birds in mythology include Ra and Horus (Hawk-headed Gods of the Sun and Sky, respectively), Quetzalcoatl (Aztec God of the Sky and namesake of the Quetzal, a group of brilliantly colored South American birds) and Huitzilopochtli (Aztec God of War – represented by a hummingbird!). Birds can also be found as manifestations of observation and wisdom through the owl of Athena (Greek Goddess of Wisdom) and the ravens of Odin (Norse God of Battle and the Hunt).
Photograph by Leigh Spencer