FW: Royal Spoonbills, actually more about ibis

To: Philip Veerman <>
Subject: FW: Royal Spoonbills, actually more about ibis
From: Martin Butterfield via Canberrabirds <>
Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2023 05:00:29 +0000
I note that the Australian Bird Guide (ABG) describes the plumage of Threskiornis molucca  as "... almost entirely white (though often dirty) ..." 

I suspect there is a clue to why this is so in the alternate common name for Threskiornis molucca of "Bin Chook".  I have never seen a Spoonbill or a white Egret (nor, come to think of it, Straw-necked Ibis)  burrowing into a wheelie bin or skip but often observe AWI in that position if the top of the container is not secured.  ABG comments on this species scavenging and feeding on carrion but the notes about Egrets and spoonbils only talk about live prey.

On Fri, 7 Apr 2023 at 14:46, Philip Veerman <> wrote:

Yes Geoffrey, Indeed HANZAB and other books do describe it as “soiled or stained”. However is that true? Has anyone tested this? I don’t know if it is and I don’t know where the idea comes from. It just seems unlikely, given that other birds like egrets & spoonbills that live in the same places, are not. Most other brownish colours on birds are accepted as pigment.




From: Geoffrey Dabb [
Sent: Friday, 7 April, 2023 12:12 PM
To: 'Philip Veerman'
Cc: 'Canberrabirds'
Subject: RE: [Canberrabirds] FW: Royal Spoonbills, actually more about ibis


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From: Philip Veerman <>
Sent: Friday, April 7, 2023 11:29 AM
To: 'Geoffrey Dabb' <>
Cc: 'Canberrabirds' <>
Subject: RE: [Canberrabirds] FW: Royal Spoonbills, actually more about ibis


Not many birds are pure white, egrets and spoonbills are notable exceptions. There is also the Scarlet Ibis. I wonder what is behind the thought process that the dirty look of the ibis is dirt, rather than just feather pigment. I don’t actually know. I have never tried to wash dirt off the whitish feathers of an ibis. Has anyone tried this? It should be easy to find out if their dirty appearance is dirt of some form. Also the bare patch of feathers along the underside of the arm of the ibis is quite normal. Though I have no idea why this species is deficient in underwing coverts.




From: Canberrabirds On Behalf Of Geoffrey Dabb
Sent: Friday, 7 April, 2023 8:54 AM
To: 'shorty'
Cc: 'Canberrabirds'
Subject: Re: [Canberrabirds] FW: Royal Spoonbills


By contrast with the snowy white spoonbills, the ibis presented themselves in a range of earth colours. One can only wonder where all of it had come from.  A few stories there, I would think.

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