Egyptian Goose

Alopochen aegyptiaca

63-73cm

Appearance

A white patch on the wings makes this bird easy to distinguish. Slightly larger than the Shelduck, this striking goose is long-legged and robust-looking. It has a reddish-brown back, a paler head and neck, and a dark patch around the eye. There's a dark smudge on its breast and its wings are inky with a green sheen, and the token white wing patches. It has pale grey underparts and its neck and head are a slightly sooty white; when extended, its neck is long and shapely. The bill is small and pink, and the legs are pink too. The plumage of juveniles is more dull; the dark eye-patch and the smudge on its breast are absent.

Habitat

Its most common breeding territory is around ornamental lakes, but lowland lakes are suitable, as are reservoirs or flooded gravel areas. It needs to be proximate to grasslands and trees for feeding and breeding, but it's never found far from water.

Character

The Egyptian Goose stands tall when not feeding, and it swims with its tail held higher than its shoulders. It is known to dive beneath the water when in danger. The large white wing-patches are striking when the bird is in flight. It usually feeds in family groups or in larger, flexible flocks.

Food

Primarily vegetarian, this goose feeds on aquatic plants and the seeds and leaves of grasses.

Breeding

Holes in trees are a popular nest-site for these birds, though they may also nest under bushes or in holes of banks. In its native Africa it occasionally makes use of human constructions, or the abandoned tree nests of large birds. In late winter the female lays 8 or 9 eggs; the eggs hatch after about 28 days of incubation. Both parents tend to the young, who feed themselves. The young are slow to gain adult feathers and they fly after approximately 70 days. Families remain together for weeks, and sometimes months; young don't breed in the first 2 years.

Population

Following introductions dating back to the late 18th century, the population in Britain is mainly resident. There's estimated to be over 1000 pairs, and population is on the increase. Some birds can be found across lowland England, though East Anglia holds majority of the population.

Observation Tips

Holkham area of north Norfolk is the best place to view this bird. Look for the bold white patch on the inner wing when in flight.

Voice

Largely a silent bird, but when vocal, the genders have different calls. The male is wheezing and throaty, while the female makes a high-pitched 'hur, hur, hur, hur'.
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