The Hadeda is a large (up to 76 cm long), dark brown ibis with a white “moustache”, glossy greenish purple wings, a large black bill with a red stripe on the upper mandible, and blackish legs.

The Hadada Ibis is found throughout open grasslands, savanna, wetlands and rainforests of Sudan, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania, Gabon, Zaire, Cameroon, Gambia, Kenya, Somalia and South Africa, and also in urban parks and large gardens. – Wikipedia

We South Africans have a complex relationship with these giants; their scream is thought by some to be the very chorus of Satan. Urban legend has it that they only scream when flying, because they are afraid of heights. They hang in packs; the troop in my garden number about eight and they lurk about waiting for opportunities to steal the dog pellets.

If I am late feeding the dogs in the morning, the birds come right up to my office door and scare me out of my skin with a shrill shriek. I curse them daily.

But death came into our garden on Friday afternoon and it has touched us deeply. Three of the birds were standing idly munching around the dog bowl when Lulubelle came hurtling around the corner and – a game she loves – scared them up into the air.  One bird, panicked, flew straight into the courtyard wall and broke its neck. The poor creature fell to the ground and lay twitching in agony.

Out of nowhere came about twenty more of the birds, they stood around their injured friend and set to a collective shouting that was deafening.

My child was crying, hysterically begging me to do something to help the Hadeda.

And then it was over, the bird was dead and the others vanished.

All but one, which continues a vigil from the roof.

I wonder if they mate for life?



  1. Oh my goodness, this is heart breaking. I defy any human being to deny creatures feelings! I just heard a quote – it may have been Darwin’s. Something like, it’s not a matter of whether they do have feelings or not, but rather a question of degree.

  2. Very sad.Yes we do sometimes curse them,especially in mulberry season when they deposit their purple poops on the patio.They are such a part of Africa though we would feel lost without them.They also eat Parktown prawns-YAY!

  3. Thank you so much, Cin – I REALLY needed those tears this morning. Should I tell you now the story of when one of our cats died and the other searched through the house for more than 6 weeks calling for her and mourning for her? Sheesh! Or I should tell you the sweet story of our 4 year old Josh, who found an injured robin, placed her in a box and sat by her for three hours, softly petting her and singing to her until she died?

    Seriously, though, even if I do blog those stories to torture everyone later, this is a wonderful story you told, and heart-wrenching. Thank you.

  4. Touching tale, Cin. Sad and sobering reminder of how quickly life can flee.

    Many birds do mate for life ~ don’t know about the Ibis. We have white ibis here who tend to be rather quiet most times. I need to listen and see if they cry when on high.

  5. Well, being the bird lover I am, this story made me cry. Your photos of the two are heartbreaking as well. I hope you write a book of short stories about your life in South Africa, because your writing is wonderful and your life is damn interesting. 😦

  6. Oh no – how heart-wrenching! I often think how tragic it must be for birds that mate for life to lose their othe half…not sure if Hadeda’s do?

  7. Poor Bunn… she loves animals so much… 😦
    I hope the bird’s partner gets a second chance at happiness – otherwise you are going to have a permanent fixture to your garden. Poor thing…

  8. Oh Cindy, how terrible. I have huge issues with animals being hurt in anyway and I feel your pain for both you and your little one. I suffer many sad stories here in Mauritius and they have all truly scarred me. I hope your fellow finds a new mate soon.
    🙂 Mandy
    PS. I have also heard that it will rain within hours of hearing a hadeda’s screams and squawks. Not so sure how true this is though.

  9. yes they do mate for life…………………I googled Hadeda Ibis as I needed to explain something to a blogging friend from the US ( I blog on Multiply) and found your photograph and followed you this way, so sorry to butt in like this. I have successfully reared a Hadeda Ibis from 3 weeks old, somebody brought it to me, it had fallen out the nest from 10 meter Oak tree, at the moment we are looking after a young one, who someone brought to us hearing about our success, they were concerned , it could not fly, found in town house complex during storm. Upon examination, we found this Hadeda had both wings and tail feathers severely clipped, mutilated I would say. We can now see new growth, the whole moulting process of these feathers will take about a year. It is a severely misunderstood bird by many, a nuisance of note in some areas, but also a helper in the garden, as they take a lot of crickets, slugs, parktown prawns etc and also help to aerate your lawn for you. Pop over to my site if you would like to chat more: http://klintm.multiply.com or send me an email: klintm@mweb.co.za
    I live in Fairlands , Johannesburg.

    Kind regards

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