[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Chloephaga picta | [authority] Gmelin, 1789 | [UK] Upland Goose | [FR] Ouette de Magellan | [DE] Magellangans | [ES] Cauquen Comun (Arg) | [NL] Magelhaengans
The sheldgeese are a genus (Chloephaga) of 5 species in the family Anatidae. It belongs to the tribe Tadornini, A group that resembles true geese and shows similar habits but is more closely related to shelducks and ducks. One of the most interesting aspects of the closely knit group of the genus Chloephaga is the great variation in colouration between the species and sexes, ranging from nearly no dimorphism in the Andean goose. All Chloephaga share upper white upper wing coverts, a metallic speculum on the secondary coverts and white secondaries. The voice of the males of these species is a whistle and that of the females a cackle. They also share short, high bills and a semiterrestrial lifestyle.
This is the only large sheldgoose (folded wing 380 mm or longer) that exhibits black barring on the flanks. In females and males of some individuals of the lesser subspecies the barring is extensive, extending around the abdomen and up the neck, while in males of the greater subspecies and some lessers the barring is restricted to the flanks; the breast, abdomen, neck, and head are entirely white. The tail is black or black tipped with white; the upperparts are gray posteriorly and barred with black on the smaller scapulars; the wing has an iridescent green speculum formed by the greater secondary coverts; the secondaries and lesser coverts are white. The bill, legs, and feet are grayish black. Females have yellow legs and feet, and the head, neck, breast, and anterior flanks are overlain with a reddish cinnamon
cast, but the black barring pattern remains evident. Juveniles and first-year immature males show dusky brown feathers in the head region. In the field, this sheldgoose may be found in company with ruddy-headed and ashy-headed geese, which are both smaller and lack white heads. Females slightly resemble ruddy-headed geese, but lack that species’ white eye-ring markings. In all sheldgeese the call of the male is a repeated whistling note, while the female produces a loud grating sound.
Listen to the sound of Upland Goose
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
recorded by Felix Vidoz
South America : Southern Cone
This is a species of the semiarid, open grasslands of Patagonia, sometimes occurring relatively far from water. Except when flightless or with broods, the birds are completely terrestrial, and are found most often in cultivated pastures and grassy valleys. Grassy islands or stream shorelines are favored territorial and brood-rearing areas in the Falkland Islands, and larger green areas, often far from water, are used by nonbreeding flocks. Grassy areas near the sea are used by birds approaching their molt, so that they might escape to the sea when flightless.
In Chile, nesting occurs during November, but in the Falkland Islands it may extend from early August to late November, with most activity between mid-September and late October. Chilean nests have been found scattered indiscriminately over the countryside but usually are near water, while in the Falkland Islands the nests are typically placed among ferns, “diddle-dee” (Empetrum), or white grass (Cortaderia). The usual clutch size is 5 to 8 eggs, and incubation by the female requires 30 days. Males remain near the nest at this time; and shortly after hatching, the young are led to water. Young fledge after 9 to 10 weeks on the Falkland Islands. By late December, adults have begun their molt and become flightless, and at that time the birds move near the seacoast for protection.
The leaf tips and seed heads of grasses such as meadow grasses (Poa) are favored foods of young and adult birds, and even very young birds apparently have an entirely vegetarian diet.
copyright: Laurent Demongin
This species has a very 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.
For many years they were heavily persecuted in the Falklands, not helped by the birds being ridiculously tame. Bounties were paid for beaks. It has been estimated that at least 25,000 geese were killed each year in the late 1970s under farm schemes. However, a number of studies show that the geese take only a small proportion of herbage and moreover, goose droppings are more nutritious than much of the grass, and sheep eat droppings. Geese are a particular problem only on reseeded pastures. In the last thirty years there has been a more enlightened attitude towards these geese, and they are no longer persecuted to anything like the same extent, though Upland Geese are still classed as pests.
The subspecies C. p. picta arrives to the main breeding areas in southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego by early September. Northern migration begins by the last week of April, arriving to the main wintering areas in southern Buenos Aires province during May. Migration occurs along both the East and West Patagonia Routes. Further north in Patagonia some populations are resident, like the Falkland populations.