Did you know that, after 300 years of extinction from Europe, the Hermit Ibis has recently returned to migrate in the continent? One of its favorite spots? The Maremma in southern Tuscany!
Meet the Hermit Ibis
The Hermit Ibis – also known as Northern Bald ibis or Waldrapp – is a migratory bird found in barren, semi-desert or rocky habitats, often close to running water. This glossy black ibis measures about 70–80 cm (28–31 in). It has an un-feathered red face and head, and a long, curved red bill. It breeds colonially on coastal or mountain cliff ledges, and feeds on lizards, insects, and other small animals.
The Northern Bald Ibis was once widespread across the Middle East, northern Africa, southern and central Europe, with a fossil record dating back at least 1.8 million years. It disappeared from Europe over 300 years ago, and is now considered critically endangered.
Reason for hope: Northern Bald Ibis Project
In the context of an EU project (LIFE+Biodiversity) called “Reason for Hope”, the Northern Bald Ibis is to be reintroduced in Europe with partners in Austria, Italy and Germany. You can learn more about this innovative project in this video.
Ever since the launch of the project, more and more Hermit Ibises have been returning to Maremma! In particular, the WWF Oasis “Laguna di Orbetello” in Southern Tuscany, is a lagoon with a favorable microclimate during winter because it is in front of the Monte Argentario Promontory, a sort of offshore island.
The Hermit Ibis in Maremma: Argentario and Orbetello
Since 2002, the WWF Oasis “Laguna di Orbetello” is the common wintering area of the Northern Bald Ibises. In autumn, the birds arrive in Tuscany.
From September to April, the Northern Bald Ibises stay at the protected area and are permanently free-flying. During the day they forage on nearby grasslands and fields; for sleeping they return to the WWF Oasis.
At the beginning of April, the spring-time migration starts and the number of birds at the Oasis decreases. The adult individuals (at the age of 2-3 years) return to their breeding area. Only some young birds stay at the protected area during the whole summer.
The hermit ibises seem to like golf quite a lot, as they are often seen strolling around the fairways of Argentario Golf Club!
Do you enjoy birdwatching and eco-tourism? Consider Maremma for your next vacation!