The red-legged ibis is honored with a sad fate - it is one of the first in the list of endangered bird species.
At the moment, the number of red-legged or Japanese ibis is 8-11 individuals. This figure is disastrous, it is the lowest among all the birds of the world.
Description of the red-legged ibis
Red-legged ibis have a white plumage with a delicate pink tint, which is best expressed on the wings and tail.
During the flight, the Japanese ibis from below appears completely pink. The length of the wings is 486-410 millimeters.
Legs are dirty red, almost brown. Around the eyes and beak there is a plot without red feathers. The beak is black, and its top has a red color. Around the eyes there are yellow rings, the iris is red.
On the back of the head of the red-legged ibis there is a crest of long feathers. In spring, during the mating season, the plumage acquires a grayish tint.
Japanese ibis lifestyle
These birds live in swampy river valleys, in rice fields and lakes. Overnight in the trees, high above the ground. On rest and during feeding, red-legged ibis often combine with cranes. The diet of Japanese ibis consists of aquatic invertebrates, small fish and reptiles. They feed in shallow ponds, the depth of which does not exceed 15 centimeters.Red-footed ibis (Nipponia nippon).
They make nests in tall groves, at an altitude of 15-20 meters from the ground, and until the 19th century they were spread along the rivers of Primorye. During flights, we met constantly in Southern Primorye, where they sometimes wintered.
Perhaps the Japanese ibis are monogamous birds. In clutch there are 3-4 eggs that both parents incubate. The incubation period lasts 28 days. On the 40th day of life, chicks of red-legged ibis stand on the wing. Young growth remains with parents until the fall, and after they unite in schools.
The number of red-legged ibis in the past
Even in the last century, the habitat of Japanese ibis was quite extensive, it stretched from Northeast China to the west and south. In Japan, these birds were quite common, they lived from Kyushu to Hokkaido. And in Korea, they have never nested. On the territory of Russia, the habitat of Japanese ibis affected a small part of the northeastern periphery, namely, the Khanka lowland and the middle Amur region. The Japanese population and, most likely, the Chinese led a sedentary lifestyle, but the ibises flew away from Amur for the winter.The appearance of the red-legged ibis is characterized by the white plumage of a pale pink shade, the most intense on the feathers and tail.
And in the past, the number of red-legged ibis was not too high, since Przhevalsky noted that only about 20 individuals were found in the area of Lake Khanka. But this is just the end of the range.
In the twentieth century, an American expedition was conducted in China, according to which the red-legged ibis was called an ordinary bird, but the specific number of these birds was not announced. In 1909, the Russian traveler P. Kozlov discovered in Gansu a colony of ibis numbers of about 10 individuals - this number can hardly be called high. Since that time, no specific information was given on the number of red-legged ibis in China, but it is known that in 1958 old poplars were cut down in Shaanxi province, as a result of which the ibises that had long nested there disappeared.
In Japan, in 1867-1868, restrictions on hunting became less stringent, since that time the extermination of Japanese ibises began. These birds were rather gullible towards people, and with the advent of firearms, they began to quickly disappear. In 1890, the red-legged ibis in Japan almost disappeared. Only a few small groups of red-legged ibis managed to survive on the islands of Honshu, Sado and Noto.The rarest species - the red-legged ibis - is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation and the International Red Book.
In 1893, protected areas were made from the last nesting sites of the red-legged ibis. But the protection of the birds was only a formality, and the number of Japanese ibis continued to fall. Already in 1923 they were completely gone.
But in 1931, 2 individuals were discovered in Nigat, as a result of which scientists had hopes and new research and searches were organized. During research in 1932-1934, approximately 100 individuals of Japanese ibis were found in the most remote forests of Noto and Sado. This time they took more serious protective measures. Red-legged ibis were called a national natural monument.
But protective measures did not apply to all habitats of the red-legged ibis, therefore, the destruction of forests continued. In addition, there was poaching, so the number of these rare birds continued to decline. Only 2 years after the ibis were declared a natural monument, their number decreased from 100 individuals to 27.40 days after hatching, young Japanese ibis stand on the wing.
The struggle of the last red-legged ibis for survival
When the Second World War began, the fate of the Japanese ibis did not concern anyone. But the ibis managed to survive the war. In 1952, 24 red-legged ibis were recorded on Sado Island. In 1954, a real reserve was organized here, the area of which was 4376 hectares. Hunting was prohibited on the territory of this reserve.
Forage sites and nesting sites of red-legged ibis began to be actively protected. But, unfortunately, at that time rice fields were actively treated with pesticides, which contained mercury. Analysis of dead individuals showed that mercury in birds was in the fatty, muscle layer and even in the bones.
In 1962, felling of trees was prohibited in the reserve. The nesting colonies did not bother, and in winter they fed the birds. But these measures were probably taken too late. In 1960, only 6 Japanese ibis remained, in 1966 their number increased to 10 individuals, but then their number fell again. Today, this extremely small group of Japanese ibis lives high in the mountains and does not feed on fields infected with pesticides.The red-legged ibis nests and sleeps on tall trees in the forest.
Until 1974, ibis regularly bred, but their number did not increase, as young animals flew away to feed on rice fields, where they died from mercury and poachers. Not a single young individual returned.
In 1975, as always, masonry was made, but the chicks did not hatch from the eggs. Under the trees, a shell of broken eggs was discovered. This situation began to repeat every spring. The shell was analyzed, but no thinning or mercury poisoning was detected. Most likely, the cause was infertility or an attack by predators, for example, jays that nest in the neighborhood.
In 1978, 3 eggs were taken from the nests, they were sent to the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo for growing in an incubator. All three eggs were unfertilized. Why this happened is not known. According to a 1977 study, only 8 Japanese ibis survived on Saldo Island.
On the Noto Peninsula in 1930, there was a tiny group of red-legged ibis, consisting of 5-10 birds, but in 1956 they stopped nesting and in 1966 completely disappeared.These beautiful birds inhabit swampy river valleys, lowlands with lakes and rice fields
Attempts to revive the red-footed ibis population
In Japan in 1966 they decided to breed these endangered birds in captivity. For this, a large aviary was built, which was placed in the nesting center of the range of Japanese ibis, namely on the island of Sado.
From 1966 to 1967, 6 young birds were caught from nature, but all of them, except for one individual, soon died of infection. Since that time, the Japanese no longer attempted to breed ibis in captivity. But the surviving only male red-legged ibis is still alive.
The sad fate of the remainder of the Japanese ibis population
In 1972, in China, in the south of Shaanxi, several skins of red-legged ibis were obtained in the place where the nesting sites used to be. There is hope that at least a tiny part of the colony managed to survive. Also at the Tienqing Zoo, one individual is alive.Most likely, in our country the red-legged ibis have completely disappeared today.
In our country, Japanese ibis rarely come across in recent decades. For example, birds were found on the Kaluga Island in 1926, in 1938 on the Bolshaya Ussurka River, in 1940 on the Bikin River, in 1949 on the Amur River, and in 1963 on the Hasan Lake. There was also information about the meeting of these birds in later years, but they are not reliable enough.
Zoologist J. Archibald from Canada in 1974 discovered 4 individuals of red-legged ibis on the border of South Korea and the DPRK. But in 1978, only a single pair was found here, and after a year - only a single copy. They tried to catch him for captivity, but this could not be done.
Possible ways to save red-legged ibis
Are there any prospects for salvation of this species? It should be frankly said that the situation of the red-legged ibis is extremely difficult. The only chance to prevent Japanese ibis from completely dying is to create an artificially captive population capable of breeding.It feeds in shallow reservoirs up to 10-15 cm deep. It feeds on aquatic invertebrates, reptiles, and small fish.
At the moment, an opportunity is being considered to catch all individuals living on Sado Island, attach a captive male to them, and send these birds to Tokyo, to Tamo Zoo, where red and white storks have already been bred.
Also, an artificial population can be created in England, in the Jersey Trust. Several colonies of nesting ibis live in the Jersey Zoo, it is likely that barren, but healthy birds from the Sado skeleton will also begin to breed in this environment. But here there are formal difficulties, since the Japanese government is not yet ready to decide on the complete capture of birds, which are a national natural monument and send them abroad. But such delays can be disastrous for the population.