Madagascar Crested Ibis Lophotibis cristata


Justification of Red List category
This species is listed as Near Threatened as its population is projected to decline moderately rapidly in the future owing to the poaching of adults, young and eggs, as well as deforestation.

Population justification
The population has been estimated at 10,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 6,700 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be declining, and is projected to decline at a steeper rate in the future owing to intense hunting pressure and habitat destruction.

Distribution and population

Lophotibis cristata is endemic to Madagascar, where it is widespread and locally common, occurring in all types of native forest from sea-level to 2,000 m, including 44 Important Bird Areas (52% of the national total) (Dee 1986; Langrand 1990; ZICOMA 1999).


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 (Langrand 1990), but only where these are close to areas of primary habitat (Morris and Hawkins 1998). It inhabits all types of native woodland, including humid forest in the north and east, and dry forest in the south and west (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is occasionally seen in mangroves (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It usually feeds in pairs on the forest floor, eating invertebrates and small vertebrates including frogs and reptiles (Morris and Hawkins 1998), and it nests in large trees within the forest. Breeding occurs at the start of the rainy season (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The nest is a large platform made of branches, usually in major forks of trees, 7-15 m above the forest floor. It may lay two eggs, but usually three. The species is presumed to be sedentary, although there are uncorroborated past claims that eastern populations are migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992).


It is universally known by hunters and others who live in forested areas, and is a favoured quarry species wherever it occurs (Dee 1986). Birds are caught by traps and snares, and eggs, nestlings and even adults are taken off the nest (Goodman et al. 1997b). Over-hunting may therefore threaten this species in the future. Its forest habitat is being destroyed, especially in the east, where deforestation is intense (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected from hunting by law, although it is still intensely hunted and trapped (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to obtain an estimate of the population size. Monitor rates of deforestation. Monitor rates of hunting, trapping and nest-robbing. Enforce legislation that protects the species from hunting. Place more areas of the species's habitat under protection. Conduct further research into its ecology.


A large red-and-white forest ibis. Body mostly reddish, with iridescent green feathers on head and crest, which has a yellowish or whitish tip. Bare skin around eye and legs red. Wings white, bill pale yellow. Similar spp. Difficult to mistake for anything else. Voice Calls loudly at night, a creaking ank-ank-ank-ank-ank. Hints Rather secretive forest ibis, often feeding in damp valley-bottoms or along forest trails, from where it is often flushed before flying noisily away through the canopy. Builds large nest in canopy.


Text account compilers
O'Brien, A., Robertson, P., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Lophotibis cristata. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/madagascar-crested-ibis-lophotibis-cristata on 28/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 28/09/2023.