Saturday, June 7, 2014

African Sacred Ibis

When I first heard the name "sacred ibis" I was wowed by it. Why would a bird be called sacred? I've learned that in Egypt this ibis was a symbol of the god Thoth who maintained the universe, arbitrated disputes between the gods, judged the dead and was associated with writing, science and the arts of magic. Thoth is often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis.
The Egyptian god Thoth with the head of an ibis.
But that is not all, the ibis was also honored in Egyptian legend for killing winged serpents attempting to fly into Egypt from Arabia. As a result, the ibis was venerated and many mummified ibises have been found in Egyptian tombs. 
A sacred ibis in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.
The sacred ibis is no longer found in Egypt, but it is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa and a small piece of southeastern Iraq. It has also been introduced into France, Italy, Spain, Taiwan and south Florida. It is black and white. Black head and neck, which are bald, bill (long down-curved) and legs, lacy plumes on the rump and tail (which are glossed with purple during breeding season) and on the rear border of the wings in flight; it has all white plumage everywhere else.
Good view of black feet and legs and lacy black plumes over the rump and tail.
Black-tinged wing feathers are visible in flight.
I thought it was fitting in the picture below that a Nile crocodile was in the vicinity of sacred ibises.
Sacred ibises, Nile crocodile and hammerkop along the Ewaso Nyiro River in Shaba National Reserve in northern Kenya.
The Nile crocodile is associated with the god Sobek who is represented as a man with the head of a crocodile. Sobek provided protection against the dangers of the Nile River and was connected to military prowess, fertility and pharaonic power.
The Egyptian god Sobek with the head of a crocodile. 
Look closely in the picture and you'll see another bird in the upper right standing on a log in the river. It is called a hammerkop or hammerhead. In Malawi, and perhaps other African cultures, the hammerkop was associated with lightning, which in ancient Egypt was attributed to the goddess Isis. 

1 comment:

  1. Does the Nile crocodile dine on the sacred ibis? They look to be just about the right size. While they don't seem too worried about their proximity, they are keeping behind him and out of sight.