A dozen rare sacred ibis have been spotted in a coastal region of Changhua County, marking the first time the species has been seen in the Changhua area, local bird watchers said yesterday.
According to ornithological records, the sacred ibis is native to the wetlands and swamps of southeastern Iraq, Madagascar and the Central African Republic.
The bird is approximately 61-71cm tall, with a long, black, sickle-shaped bill.
Ancient Egypt had a large number of sacred ibis, but the bird is now rarely seen in Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians believed that the bird was the incarnation of the god of wisdom and knowledge, prompting them to name it the sacred bird.
The bird was first seen in Taiwan some 10 years ago when Leofoo Village Theme Park in Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan imported several of them.
Four of the birds later escaped from the zoo and have since bred in the wild. The birds are now often seen in the coastal regions of western Taiwan from Hsinchu in the north to Chiayi in the south.
Aquatic bird specialist Tsai Chia-yang (蔡嘉陽) said that the presence of sacred ibis was not expected to affect Taiwan's coastal ecology for the time being, because their main competitor in the food chain, the cattle egret, is much more common.
Both sacred ibis and cattle egret rely on small crabs and insects for their diet.
Tsai estimated the number of sacred ibis in the Changhua area at around 10.