Honi Soit Writing Competition

In defence of the mighty ibis: Actual campus mascot at USyd

How beloved are campus' bin chickens?

A cartoon drawing of two ibises, one on a bin, one behind a Kanken backpack. Artwork by Amelia Mertha

Okay first-years, I know you’ve all seen that fucking white bird on campus. They are quite inescapable, aren’t they?

As a university student, you’ve probably met them when getting closer to their bins, or simply lying on the Eastern Avenue lawns . Say you’ve just walked out of the New Law building with a baguette in hand, and pass the Taste bins. If you look approachable and they feel brave, they will come and stare into your soul, as if they’re planning to steal whatever you’re having in the very next second.

The Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca), also known as “the disgrace of the bird family”, “tip turkey” and “the bin chicken”, is overwhelmingly hated by the majority of students, who are yet to grasp  what they mean to the campus environment.

“Ibis birds scare me,” a student says. “It’s only because they seem like they are trying to steal my lunch and will be vicious should I not comply.”

Admittedly, their face looks like a taper that connects with the extremely long and bendy beaks that are often hidden in dirty bins. What’s weirder, their white feathers contrast with a tail that’s as black as the head and neck, whilst the undersides of their wings have rosy pink streaks only visible in flight — a truly odd kaleidoscope.

Believe it or not, the ibis is native to this land and their congregation in the city indicates that humans have conquered their traditional habitats. And yet, in admiring this majestic flock of birds through the window when they fly as a group and make a long V shape in the sky, it is clear that urban ibises have adapted well, just as many first years will also learn to adapt to campus life. Perhaps it it is something in our bins or the bin juice…

Despite occasionally overhearing students claiming to  “like” ibises, my interpretation of their use of th word “like” is that they enjoy their infamy as walking memes on campus, and their role as the butt of many, many jokes. If you are one of the 4000 followers of the Sydney University Ibis Watch Facebook page, then congratulations! Your impassioned reactions have enabled you to stand out amongst the legions of other indifferent students. If not, I encourage you to check the page out.

Student William Edwards was an ignorant first year from the Arts faculty in 2014, when he confessed to a nascent personal and emotional connection with the Australian white ibis on campus.

“We students and academics are not content with what appears on the surface, but instead, we probe deeper, like ibises, for nourishing scientifictruths, philosophical explanations, sociological solutions, and so forth.”

Surprisingly, the seed Edwards planted as an ibis lover has now grown into a sapling. More and more students on campus now love to hang out alongside this curious creature,  and regard the bird as a campus mascot. There is much to be gleaned from their charming personality, commitment to protecting the environment by eating our leftovers, and no-fucks-given attitude.

Whilst there are some who choose to meet in anger on Glare at an Ibis Day, there are also those among us who want to fight back. The Ibis is now part of USyd culture and identity, even if they do continue to occasionally wreak havoc by sneaking food and chasing after baguette-wielding students.