Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)

Egyptian Goose

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Alopochen aegyptiacus | [authority] Linnaeus, 1766 | [UK] Egyptian Goose | [FR] Ouette de Egypte | [DE] Nilgans | [ES] Oca del Nilo | [NL] Nijlgans

Subspecies

Monotypic species

Genus

The Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae, and is the only extant member of the genus Alopochen. mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data suggest that the relationships of Alopochen to Tadorna need further investigation (Sraml et al. 1996). Two or three species of Alopochen from the Madagascar region have become extinct in the last 1000 years or so: Mauritian Shelduck, Alopochen mauritianus – Mauritius, late 1690s. Malagasy Shelduck or Madagascar Shelduck, Alopochen sirabensis (may be subspecies of A. mauritianus) – Madagascar, prehistoric: see Late Quaternary prehistoric birds Reunion Shelduck or Kervazo’s Egyptian Goose, Alopochen kervazoi – Reunion, c.1690s.

Physical charateristics

Egyptian geese have long necks, long pink legs, a pink bill and brown eye patches encircling each eye. They are distinguished from closely related species by a brown patch in the middle of the chest. The upper wings and the head are brown, while the rest of the body is light brown. The underside of the wings is white and green. Juveniles do not have the brown eye patches or a patch on the chest. Egyptian geese are anywhere from 63 to 73 cm in height and they can weigh from 1.5 to 2.3 kg. The wingspan is fairly large, measuring 38 cm, on average.
Distinguishing between males and females can be a challenge. The females are smaller than the males, but otherwise both sexes look alike. One way to tell them apart is by their sound. Males make a raspy hiss, while females produce a cackling sound. Although they are not terribly vocal, when they are feeling aggressive or stressed they will make a great deal of noise.
These geese stay together in small flocks throughout the year, mainly for protection. Egyptian geese pair up during the breeding season, but otherwise they remain in their flocks. Although they are mainly sedentary, they move to another body of water if a period of drought occurs in their current home range. They may wander from the water during the day in search of food in either the grasslands or agricultural fields. They always return to the water at night.

Listen to the sound of Egyptian Goose

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ANSERIFORMES/Anatidae/sounds/Egyptian Goose.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto


wingspan min.: 130 cm wingspan max.: 145 cm
size min.: 63 cm size max.: 73 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 70 days fledging max.: 30 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 7  
      eggs max.: 10  

Range

Africa : widespread

Habitat

Egyptian geese will not populate densely wooded areas, though they can be found in meadows, grasslands, and agricultural fields. Most of their time is spent in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands. They can be found as high as 4000 m.

Reproduction

The males are quite aggressive when mating. Each male performs a noisy and elaborate courtship display, emitting unusually loud honking noises. Under normal circumstances, Egyptian geese are reserved, quiet animals, but during mating season they are just the opposite. A male will act in this manner in order to attract a female. Since Egyptian geese are monogamous, one male and one female nest alone in dense vegetation, holes, or simply on the ground.
Egyptian geese breed in the spring or at the end of the dry season (The breeding season is anywhere from July to March, depending on the area). At the age of two, Alopochen aeygptiacus reach sexual maturity. Nest locations are usually near water for safety and near grassland for feeding; the nests are made out of feathers and vegetation and are located in dense vegetation, holes, or simply on the ground. Pairs sometimes find nests on the ground or use deserted nests of other larger bird species (such as Buteo buteo (common buzzard) or Pica pica (black-billed magpie)), which can be located in trees or on high ledges. The male goose fertilizes the female internally. Five to twelve eggs are laid, and they are incubated for 28 to 30 days. The young fledge in 70 days. Incubation lasts from 28 to 30 days and is done by both parents. The father protects the eggs and chicks, while the mother guides them and keeps them close to her.

Feeding habits

Egyptian geese are mainly herbivores, they eat young grass from grasslands or savannahs, grains (particularly wheat) from agricultural fields, and soft vegetation like leaves and other detritus. Many tend to forage away from the water in pastures or arable land. Part of their diet includes a wide variety of small insects, terrestrial worms and frogs that live in nearby ponds.

Video Egyptian Goose

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZM1aNt1xDM

copyright: J. del Hoyo


Conservation

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Alopochen aegyptiaca is widely distributed throughout its native range, Africa, and southern Europe. It is especially common in southern Africa, below the Sahara and in the Nile Valley. In the 18th century, Alopochen aegyptiaca was introduced into Great Britain, and a substantial population still thrives there today. Currently Alopochen aegyptiaca is colonizing the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.
Introduced 18th century in West Europe, the range of feral (returned to wild) population has increased in recent years. Breeds ferally also in Netherlands since 1970s and Belgium since 1982, with a few pairs in France and Germany. Birds seen sporadically elsewhere in Europe also regarded as of captive origin, though some older southern records perhaps wild birds, as former breeding range uncertain. Occasional records in Israel, where perhaps bred formerly. Formerly scarce winter visitor to Cyprus, and has occasionally wintered Tunisia and Algeria.
Egyptian Goose status Least Concern

Migration

Largely sedentary over much of range, with only local movements linked with availability of water. Occasional in winter N of Sahara (Algeria, Tunisia).

Distribution map

Egyptian Goose distribution range map

Literature

Title Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiacus moulting on Dassen Island, South Africa
Author(s): L.G. Underhill, J. Kemper, P.A. Whittington & A.C. Wolfaardt
Abstract: Egyptian Geese have increased in numbers in the We..[more]..
Source: 2000 Marine Ornithology 28: 121-122 (2000)

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