Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
The Northern Bald Ibis was a common sight throughout Europe until the 17th Century when widespread hunting made the large migratory bird, known for its red face and curved red bill, virtually extinct.
But the Ibis is flying high again as part of the European Union’s mission to “rewild” Europe and create natural spaces where wildlife can flourish. It’s doing this through a series of Reason for Hope: Life + Biodiversity Projects designed to stop the decline in various wildlife species, including the Ibis.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel were excited to learn that the Ibis population is now up to 80 birds with a projected goal of 120 birds by 2019.
This wouldn’t be possible without the Austrian-based conservation group Waldrappteam, which is breeding Ibis chicks in captivity at the Salzburg Zoo.
Made up of scientists of all types – zoologists, environmental engineers, avian medicine specialists, and more – plus researchers, technicians and volunteers, the team raises and nurtures the chicks, getting them ready to be introduced into the wild.
The group’s work isn’t easy, by any means. Especially since the new chicks need to be taught to migrate from their home in Austria to wintering grounds in Italy…a journey of 800 miles, flying over the Alps.
Without adult birds to show the fledglings what route to take, their human “foster parents” at Waldrappteam have taken on the task, bonding with the baby birds and building trust until it’s time for the migration.
Then, in August – in a feat that’s amazing to accomplish and even more amazing to see – the foster parents literally guide the Ibises to Italy, leading the way in paraplanes (motorized ultralight planes with parachute canopies).
It’s hard to imagine – the human guides, literally floating in the air high above the mountains, unprotected from the elements, surrounded by the birds. With the Ibises flying in formation and the brightly-colored parachute keeping the open-structured plane aloft, the trip takes 20-days.
It’s incredible what can happen
when birds of a feather – and man – flock together.
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