Sydney councils seek help for ibis problem

A Sydney council that has considered resorting to bird spikes, bright lights and electric pulses to control its growing ibis population is now calling on the NSW government to develop a plan to manage the ubiquitous birds.

Canterbury-Bankstown Council has written to the state government to request the development of a metropolitan-wide response to the management of the species in the urban environment after a motion was carried at a council meeting last December.

“Ibis have colonised many of our parks and urban streets and this has brought with it many challenges, including them scavenging in rubbish and nesting in inappropriate locations,” a council spokesperson told Government News.

In 2018, Council developed its Australian White Ibis Management Plan, identifying how to best manage ibis in the urban environment, with recommendations on monitoring and controlling colony populations.

“While Council can undertake some controls, licences are required to remove ibis nests and eggs where they are causing health or environmental impacts,” a Council spokesperson said.

“This is not unreasonable. However, there are opportunities for more leadership and coordination from the state government around this issue, including streamlining this process.”

A public nuisance

The Australian white ibis, Threskiornis molucca,  is one of three native species of ibis found in Australia and is protected under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. However, they have become a problem because they are taking over urban parks and gardens.

According to a national white ibis survey overseen by the NSW department of environment, there were 5,694 ibis in the Sydney region in 2015.

“Their overabundance can result in a range of negative impacts including degradation of native vegetation, reduced biodiversity, contamination of water bodies, a risk for disease transfer to livestock industries and humans, and potential risk to air safety,” the management plan says.

The main issues for Council relates to the species being a public nuisance. It receives numerous complaints from nearby residents regarding noise, smell and accumulated excrement from ibises, the management plan says.

“Noise is a significant issue as the breeding season coincides with the early sunrises of spring and summer. It is common for ibis to start making noise from 4am onwards. The smell of droppings, carcasses and broken eggs, magnified by the summer heat, also contributes to public concern.”

They are also creating a bird strike problem at Bankstown Airport, the plan says.

According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), there were 39 bird strikes involving ibis at Australian airports between 1991 and 2001.

Reducing ibis population

Due to the ibis being a protected species, Council is limited in its ability to intervene with breeding. However, Council has come up with a few solutions in its management plan.

One way to reduce the ibis population is to restrict access to food sources, particularly at waste landfills, the plan says.

“In urban environments, landfill sites provide a food source for ibis, often resulting in large numbers flying in to forage and significantly contributing to an artificially inflated population.”

To maintain the ibis population below a certain threshold, Council proposed applying management actions if the population exceeds this threshold.

This includes installing bird spikes to deter birds from landing, wire strands to make perching areas unstable, bright lights to reduce attractiveness of evening roosting areas, and electrified tracks to emit an irritating pulse to deter perching.

Council has set a target population for ibis in the council local government area of between 1,000 and 2,200 birds.

“This was determined through examination of the current population size, area of preferred ibis habitat and current strike history at Bankstown Airport,” the plan said.

Campbelltown City Council has ibis management plans in place for several of its sites, including Lake Mandurama, Ambarvale and Eagle Vale Pond, Eagle Vale.

“Council has previously advocated for a standard set of ibis management guidelines from the NSW Government and still believes this is needed to more effectively manage ibis populations,” Director City Delivery Kevin Lynch told Government News.

Camden Council also has an ibis management plan. “Council has been actively managing the Australian white ibis population at Lake Annan in Mount Annan since 2012,” a spokesperson told Government News.

A DPIE spokesman did not comment on the state government’s role in devising a metropolitan management plan but said community education, including discouraging feeding the birds, could help mitigate interactions between ibis and people.

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One thought on “Sydney councils seek help for ibis problem

  1. What does the term “management” mean in this context? Wouldn’t passive measures just move the problem elsewhere (the one “we” caused through urbanisation)?

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