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(BNN) — A delegation of glossy ibises has landed in New Zealand, raising questions about whether they will throw their beak in the running for Bird of the Year.

Birds New Zealand announced their arrival earlier today when it shared a picture of 27 birds in a paddock near Blenheim. It’s unknown exactly how long the delegation has been in New Zealand.

Some critics have questioned whether the glossy ibis would be eligible to compete in Bird of the Year. The barn owl was included after it gained residency in 2010. It was upgraded from vagrant to native status after a pair was found banging in a barn near Northland.

“If you’re comparing the situation to the barn owl, the glossy ibis is technically more entitled to run in the competition, ” said migratory bird expert Mig Gratin.

“It has been considered native to New Zealand since January 2015 when a confused pair of the birds were found breeding in a royal spoonbill colony at Wainono Lagoon.”

Is the glossy ibis even native?

A single bird was first recorded in 1902 at Washdyke Lagoon in Timaru. Reports at the time suggested the bird was scouting the area for suitable habitat, but was not impressed with Timaru’s lack of culture and general attitude towards conservation.

Since then, there have been at least 50 records of glossy ibises in New Zealand. The first flock delegations of 14, 18, and 24 birds arrived in 1953.

A glossy ibis in a wetland
A lone glossy ibis scout at Orongo (Photo by Oscar Thomas)

From 1999 until 2014, at least one glossy ibis has been present during the winter months at Travis Wetlands and Bexley Wetlands near Christchurch. They have also been seen regularly at Unahi (Northland), Ohiwa (Bay of Plenty), Manawatu Estuary, Wairau Lagoons (Blenheim), Stewart Islands. One even reached the Chatham Island in December 1984.

BNN’s political correspondents have reached out to the ibis delegation for comment.

An excerpt from Notornis describing the glossy ibis
Excerpt from Notornis Vol. 4(6), October 1951.
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