Fwd: Oxford Australia's Word of the Month August 2015: 'Tip turkey'

To: 'CanberraBirds' <>
Subject: Fwd: Oxford Australia's Word of the Month August 2015: 'Tip turkey'
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Mon, 3 Aug 2015 03:42:28 +0000

Yes indeed it is partly true, I have no wish (nor finances) to support or read Sydney newspapers but I have been to Sydney many times in the last six years and I have seen the Ibis (and their brazen activity), not only in the botanic gardens but even around inner city central station. It is a well known trend. It is obvious they breed nearby, so they have not lost habitat. Clearly Mark indicates that the species is a generalist in its breeding ability as well as its feeding ability. So as indicated, it has not really lost habitat, because it has been able to switch to new habitat. In general, it does not make sense that a species becomes more common because of loss of habitat – which is sort of a logical extension of what the original text suggested. Yes habitat critical for other species that are reliant on wetlands has reduced and that deserves separate comment. Beyond that, sorry but Mark’s comment just adds more detail which as I see it fully supports the point of what I wrote.




From: Mark Clayton [ Sent: Monday, 3 August 2015 1:11 PM           To: 'Philip Veerman'; 'David McDonald (personal)'; 'CanberraBirds'
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Fwd: Oxford Australia's Word of the Month August 2015: 'Tip turkey'


Obviously Philip has not been keeping up with all the Sydney papers or television news over the last few years. There has been and still are, a lot of the birds breeding in various parks and lagoons around Sydney, so much so that approval has been given by NSWNPWS to remove eggs from nests, put pin holes in others and also coating the eggs in – I think – cooking oil which stops the flow of air through the egg shell. It is now a common breeding species in the city and given the ready access to food – try eating anything in the botanic gardens in Sydney to see how brazen they have become. Many of their former haunts are now a shadow of their former glory days through lack of water, even with the so called “environmental flows”. One just has to see the Macquarie Marshes to know what is happening to their former breeding range. It is becoming more and more a rare event for flooding to occur over much of the bird’s breeding range which is why the birds now breed in the lovely city parks with ponds. It is interesting that in the last few years the species is now breeding in urban Canberra – formerly at the Yowani Golf Course where ultimately the colony was moved on because of “pollution” fears – and I think also at the Gungahlin Lakes Golf Course , although I haven’t been able to check my long distance observation there. They are also breeding at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Interestingly all are man-made habitats.


I do like the names Tip Turkey, Dump Chook and a slight variation on the email David forwarded Bin Chook.




From: Philip Veerman [
Sent: Monday, 3 August 2015 11:43 AM
To: 'David McDonald (personal)'; 'CanberraBirds'
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Fwd: Oxford Australia's Word of the Month August 2015: 'Tip turkey'


The name I have been seeing is “dump chook” (though the similarity of reason is clear). I am very sceptical about the causation suggested by: “Since the 1970s the bird has increasingly been found in urban centres, largely as a result of the decline in the bird’s natural habitat due to intensive farming, urban sprawl, and periods of drought.”


I suspect that the reason for the change has little to do with loss of habitat, because it still has places to breed, which is where the increase in numbers come from. I suggest far more likely it goes to those places because it is a generalist and the food pickings are far more easy there than in any natural habitat.




From: David McDonald (personal)
Sent: Monday, 3 August 2015 10:34 AM
To: CanberraBirds
Subject: [canberrabirds] Fwd: Oxford Australia's Word of the Month August 2015: 'Tip turkey'


Hi, this may be of interest - David

-------- Forwarded Message --------


Word of the Month August 2015


Mon, 03 Aug 2015 10:00:19 +1000


Oxford University Press



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tip turkey
- noun:
the white ibis, Threskiornis moluccus, often regarded as a pest in urban areas because of its scavenging at tips, etc.


The Australian white ibis, Threskiornis moluccus, is widespread across Australia, and naturally inhabits wetlands where it feeds on small invertebrates, especially crustaceans. As part of the ibis family the white ibis has a characteristic long downward-curved bill. Since the 1970s the bird has increasingly been found in urban centres, largely as a result of the decline in the bird’s natural habitat due to intensive farming, urban sprawl, and periods of drought. It has successfully adapted to the urban environment by scavenging on the food refuse of the human population. This scavenging habit has seen numbers increase in many city centres including Sydney’s:

‘The species is a wetland forager’, wildlife officer John Martin, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, says. ‘Now it forages in inland parks and landfill’. During the peak of its spring breeding season, more than 9000 of the birds call Sydney home. (Sydney Morning Herald, 27 April 2013)

The interaction between humans and white ibises in urban areas in recent years has led to an increasingly disparaging view of this bird with a correspondingly negative vocabulary to describe it. Tip turkey is just one of a number of terms now used to describe the Australian white ibis. Others include bin chicken, dump chook, dumpster diver, and flying rat. Tip turkey, like bin chicken and dump chook, associates the ibis with stupidity, as well as with garbage and refuse.

The unflattering description of the ibis as a tip turkey is a relatively recent appellation, but one that has grown in frequency since the first evidence for the term in 2009. This has perhaps matched the growing presence of the birds and their scavenging habits:

Known as the tip turkey, the bird’s reputation for ferreting through inner-city bins and scavenging street garbage has not endeared it to the public. (Sydney Morning Herald, 27 April 2013)

But no matter how much these birds have been denigrated in recent times they now occupy a permanent place in the Australian urban landscape:

They’re the bird Sydneysiders love to hate, but the native white ibis, or tip turkey as they’re sometimes known, are true city slickers. (Sydney Sun-Herald, 20 October 2013)

In March 2015, artist Robert Hains won second place in Brisbane City Council’s Recycling Art competition with a kinetic sculpture inspired by the white ibis and built out of items found at the tip. He gave his creation the name Tip Turkey.

Tip turkey will be included in the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

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