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Madagascar crested wood ibis (Lophotibis cristata)

The Madagascar crested or white-winged wood Ibis is a medium-sized (about 50 cm long), red-brown-plumaged ibis. It has bare red skin atroud the eyes, a pale yellow bill, red legs, white wings and its head is partially bare with a dense crest ofiridescent green or gloss blue and white plumes on the nape and on the head. The crest has a yellowish or whitish tip.

It is endemic to the native woodlands and forests of Madagascar from sea-level to 2,000 m. In the east it seems relatively adaptable, having been recorded in secondary woodland habitats such as relict trees in and around vanilla and oil-palm plantations if these are near areas of primary habitat (1). It inhabits all types of native woodland, including humid forest in the north and east, and dry forest in the south and west. It is occasionally seen in mangroves.

It is presumed to be sedentary, but there are uncorroborated past claims that eastern populations are migratory (2). It calls loudly at night, making a creaking ank-ank-ank-ank-ank call. It is rather secretive and often feeds in damp valley-bottoms or along forest trails, from where it is often flushed before flying noisily away through the canopy. It usually feeds in pairs on the forest floor, eating insects, spiders, snails and other invertebrates and small vertebrates including frogs and reptiles (1), and it nests in large trees within the forest. Breeding occurs at the start of the rainy season (2). The nest is a large platform made of branches, usually in major forks of trees, 7-15 m above the forest floor. The female usually lays three, or occasionally two, eggs in a large platform nest, made from twigs and branches, in the canopy layer of large trees.

It is evaluated as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of threatened Species, due to ongoing deforestation and other habitat loss, especially in the east, limited range and overhunting, with poaching of adults, young and eggs, in some areas. Hunters and others consider it to be a favoured quarry species, which is caught by traps and snares (3). The population size of about 10,000, including about 6,700 mature individuals, is decreasing and has a distribution size of about 535,000 km2 It is locally common and occurs in 44 Imporportant Bird Areas.herefore threaten this species in the future. It is protected from hunting by law. Proposed conservation actions include population and ecology surveys; monitoring rates of hunting, trapping and nest-robbing; enforcing anti-hunting legislation and protecting more suitable habitats.

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