Context. In the Sydney region, the population of Australian white ibis has dramatically increased from rare observations in the 1950s to a breeding season peak of 8900 in 2008, resulting with human -wildlife conflicts. Within natural habitats across the eastern states, the ibis population has declined, yet within urban environments ibis have been lethally managed for over 30 years. However, limited ecological and no regional population data are available for the Sydney region.
Aims. The present study of ibis in the Sydney region aims to (1) establish the abundance of the population during the breeding and non-breeding seasons, (2) determine whether the population is increasing, and (3) identify the importance of different foraging and roosting sites.
Methods. Across the Sydney region, we surveyed 54 discrete sites for 2.5 years. At each site, we recorded the number of adult, juvenile and nestling ibis as well as the number of active nests. The 54 sites were grouped into 15 areas consisting of five landfills and 10 suburbs, which were assessed with ANOVA.
Key results. The ibis population of the Sydney region doubled from a peak of 4200 in 2006 to 8900 in 2008. Seasonal fluctuations saw adults migrating in to the region to breed, and adults and juveniles dispersing following breeding. On average, 44% of the population was located foraging within landfills, whereas 80% of nesting activity occurred within 'urban-natural' habitats.
Conclusions. Seasonal fluctuations indicated that the ibis population of Sydney is connected with the broader state and national population. Landfills provided an abundant foraging resource that supported extended breeding, including consistent nesting for a 19-month period.
Implications. The present study indicated that any localised population management has consequences beyond the immediate or regional population and, consequently, regional management plans or actions need to consider the long-term status of the eastern states' population. Urban conflicts need to be resolved with human education and a conservation agenda, preferably with the provision of refuge habitat where birds are not disturbed.