An exotic bird, which is native to Africa and the Middle East, has been sighted in a Northamptonshire garden, but the government has warned the incomer could threaten native species.
The African Sacred Ibis is known to have escaped, or been deliberately released from captivity in Europe, with breeding populations becoming established in the wild in France.
But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said the bird is an “invasive species” and could threaten UK biodiversity.
The Ibis is an “opportunistic feeder” and is known to eat the eggs or young of other birds, and tends to flock to estuaries and wetlands.
Defra has an ongoing invasive species action plan to prevent the Ibis from colonising in the UK, and so far no breeding pairs or wild populations have been detected.
The action plan aims to reduce the risk of invasion from abroad, detect and confirm sightings, and humanely cull or remove any where needed.
If a risk to a protected native species is identified, or breeding appears possible, control work such as “egg oiling” would be carried out, according to the plan.
The Sacred Ibis is similar in appearance to our native Grey Heron or Spoonbill, due to its long bill and legs.
It is known for its symbolism in Ancient Egypt, where it was linked to the god Thoth – the masculine god of wisdom and writing.
The Ibis sighted in Northamptonshire is believed to have made a nest in the village of Barby, near Rugby, and has been frequenting the garden of Dot Crowe where it’s been seen eating cream crackers with her chickens.
Defra said the singular bird is unlikely to pose a threat to native wildlife and has probably escaped from a zoo or wildlife collection.
The Ibis was first spotted in the UK in 1995 and 49 were recorded in 2012, according to the website NBN Atlas.
In 2013 the owner of South Lakes Wild Animal Park, in Cumbria was prosecuted and fined after a number of the park’s Sacred Ibises escaped to the nearby Furness Peninsula.