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Regions > African Rainforest > Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose

Location at the Zoo: African Rainforest



Region:

Africa

Class:

Aves

Order:

Anseriformes

Family:

Anatidae

Genus:

Alopochen

Scientific Name:

Alopochen aegyptiacus

Description

: These geese are quite strikingly patterned in light gray to tan, and dark gray to brown with a large chestnut coloured patch around the eye. The bill is mottled, the legs are pink. There is a fair amount of white on the upper wing with iridescent green. Sexes look similar. The female tends to be smaller than the gander. Juveniles lack the brown marks around the eyes and on the breast.

Length: 71 to 73 cm

Weight: 1.5 - 2.25 kg

Distribution

: Africa; south of the Sahara to and including South Africa as well as the Nile Valley. They have also been successfully introduced into Great Britain during Victorian times, with established feral populations primarily in East Anglia. There is also a wild population in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Habitat

: In their tropical African home Egyptian geese frequent rivers, marshes, and lakes resorting to a wide range of nesting sites. Cavities and holes in trees and abandoned nests of other birds may be selected; also ledges on cliffs and banks.

Food

: Mostly grass and seeds, leaves and stems of plants, vegetables, grains, and shoots but also some animal items such as worms and locusts. They forage mainly by grazing on arable land and pastures or in ponds with their heads submerged.

Reproduction and Development

: Egyptian geese remain in small flocks of family units through the majority of the year, and only pair up during the breeding season. The breeding season varies but it is mostly during the (local) spring or at the end of the dry season. The gander draws attention to himself during the mating season with noisy displays and fierce territorial fighting both on water and land. They have a hoarse, hollow call resembling the sound of a steam engine. Rivals stand (or swim) breast to breast continually attempting to seize the base of each other’s neck while beating the opponent with both wings and feet. Adults separate into pairs, and each pair establishes a territory.

The mating pair prepare a nest made with reeds, leaves and grass, lined with down. The nest is built on the ground amongst vegetation, in holes on the ground, on cliffs or sometimes in trees using nests of other birds. The female lays a clutch of 5 to 12 creamy white eggs, which hatch after 28 - 30 days. The chicks have sooty brown down on the top but are mostly white below. The gander leaves after the egg laying period but remains nearby until it is time to escort the goslings to the water. They fledge after 60 to 75 days and remain in their parents’ care for almost 4 months. They reach sexual maturity after two years.

Adaptations

: Within southern Africa it is the most commonly encountered species of waterfowl and is found almost everywhere except highly arid regions and at very high altitudes. They occupy virtually all types of freshwater wetlands, and occasionally forage along the coastline and swim in the sea. They also occur on grass lawns in urban areas and in fields with cereal crops.
In Ethiopia, they can be found in the highlands at 4000 m. They are largely sedentary over much of the range with only some local movements linked with the availability of water. In East Anglia (Great Britain), they are very much at home in trees, perching and even roosting there.

A large part of the wings of mature birds is white, but in repose the white is hidden by the wing coverts. When it is aroused, either in alarm or aggression, the white begins to show. In flight or when the wings are fully spread the white is conspicuous.

The vocalizations of Egyptian geese can be easily identified. The males hiss, and the females make a loud cracking noise. The female has a far noisier raucous quack that frequently sounds in aggression and almost incessantly at the slightest disturbance when tending her young. Both sexes are aggressively territorial towards their own species when breeding and frequently pursue intruders into the air, attacking them in aerial "dogfights".

Threats to Survival

: Natural predators (especially of goslings) are eagles and baboons. They are the most widely distributed member of this family in Africa. They are not globally threatened. The greatest numbers appear in South, East and West Africa. It has become less common in Mozambique. The species is persecuted by shooting and poisoning in parts of its range (it is regarded as an agricultural pest). It is also hunted for sport although not in large numbers. However, hunting has now been curtailed, particularly in South Africa. In Great Britain few goslings survive because of predation by crows and competition with Canada geese.

Status

: IUCN: Least concern; CITES: Appendix III

Zoo Diet

: Waterfowl breeder pellets, romaine lettuce, spinach, oyster shell/insoluble grit, and bean sprouts.


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