Ibises & Spoonbills

ORDER : PLATALEIFORMES (although some authorities will list under PELECANIFORMES)

Family : Threskiornithidae, which is currently divided into 2 subfamilies, with 28 extant species of Ibis under 12 genera, and 6 species of Spoonbill under a single genus.

Subfamilies :
       Threskiornithinae (Ibises)
       Plataleinae (Spoonbills)

The above reflects the traditional treatment of keeping Ibises and Spoonbills neatly separated as sister subfamilies.

However, recent analysis has shown that this is incorrect and that Spoonbills should actually come under Threskiornithinae, thereby making the subfamily Plataleinae obsolete. In addition, a new subfamily Eudociminae has been introduced to the “Taxonomy in Flux” system. This subfamily includes 8 of the species of Ibis (genera Eudocimus, Theristicus, Cercibis, Mesembrinibis and Phimosus).

Whilst I take note of the above, the main purpose of my list is to show the different species and their respective scientific names in a logical order, consequently I’ve retained the traditional subfamily split.

The following is a complete systematic listing at genus level.

This list is for personal reference, which is why certain species (13no) are highlighted – these being the species that I have both seen and photographed.


Ibises are long-legged wading birds with long down-curved bills that they use for probing in the mud for crustaceans or other small food items. Most species nest in trees often with Herons, and/or Spoonbills to which they are closely related.

Subfamily : Threskiornithinae, with 28 extant species under 12 genera

  • African Sacred Ibis - Threskiornis aethiopicus
  • Malagasy Sacred Ibis - Threskiornis bernieri
  • Black-headed Ibis - Threskiornis melanocephalus
  • Australian White Ibis - Threskiornis molucca
  • Straw-necked Ibis - Threskiornis spinicollis
  • Red-naped Ibis - Pseudibis papillosa
  • White-shouldered Ibis - Pseudibis davisoni
  • Giant Ibis - Pseudibis gigantea
  • Northern Bald Ibis - Geronticus eremita
  • Southern Bald Ibis - Geronticus calvus
  • Crested Ibis - Nipponia nippon
  • Olive Ibis - Bostrychia olivacea
  • São Tomé Ibis - Bostrychia bocagei
  • Spot-breasted Ibis - Bostrychia rara
  • Hadada Ibis - Bostrychia hagedash
  • Wattled Ibis - Bostrychia carunculata
  • Plumbeous Ibis - Theristicus caerulescens
  • Buff-necked Ibis - Theristicus caudatus
  • Black-faced Ibis - Theristicus melanopis
  • Sharp-tailed Ibis - Cercibis oxycerca
  • Green Ibis - Mesembrinibis cayennensis
  • Bare-faced Ibis - Phimosus infuscatus
  • American White Ibis - Eudocimus albus
  • Scarlet Ibis - Eudocimus ruber
  • Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
  • White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
  • Puna Ibis - Plegadis ridgwayi
  • Madagascar Ibis - Lophotibis cristata


All six species of Spoonbill have large, flat, spatula shaped bills that they use to sweep through shallow water in search of small aquatic food items.

Subfamily : Plataleinae, with 6 species under a single genus

  • Eurasian Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
  • Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor
  • African Spoonbill - Platalea alba
  • Royal Spoonbill - Platalea regia
  • Yellow-billed Spoonbill - Platalea flavipes
  • Roseate Spoonbill - Platalea ajaja, although sometimes, but incorrectly, placed in its own genus Ajaja

Related information : 'understanding bird orders and families' and 'understanding taxonomy listings'

Issue : 3 (April 18) (originated Nov.15)