(See Photo Gallery below)
The Egyptian Goose is not really a goose, but is actually a Shelduck. It is a cross between a goose and a duck. It has many duck-like characteristics, but it also has some external goose-like traits. It is the most widespread of all the African waterfowl. These old-world shelducks were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians, who considered them to be sacred. The Romans and the Greeks also kept Egyptian Geese in domestic flocks.
Two of the most obvious field marks of the Egyptian Goose are the chestnut eye patches surrounding its yellow eyes, and a brown chest patch. There is also a brown stripe that forms a collar around the nape of the neck. There are two color forms of Egyptian Geese: some have gray-brown upper parts, and others are red-brown. The Egyptian Goose is about 25-29” long. It has pink legs and feet. The bill is also pink, with a black tip and a dark base. The male has green secondaries, but a large portion of the adult wing is white. The white usually remains hidden when the bird is at rest, however, the white wing feathers can be easily seen when the bird is in flight. The under tail coverts are cinnamon colored: the upper tail is black. The sexes look alike, but the female is slightly smaller. She also may have a lighter colored head than the male. Close-up, the feathers have a wavy look to them. The young birds look similar to the adult, but lack the eye and chest patches. They have brown eyes.
Range and Habitat
Egyptian Geese are mainly found south of the Sahara in Africa, along the Nile River Valley, and in southern Israel. They were introduced into England in the 1700’s, and some feral birds can be found in the United States. They are usually found inland, close to wet areas, and can sometimes be found on the open plains.
The Egyptian Geese are terrestrial; they spend a lot of time ashore. They feed both day and night sometimes far from the water. They are good swimmers and divers, but do not filter their food. They mainly eat seeds, leaves, grass, berries, and herbs. They also eat locusts, worms, insects, and small animals. They can be real pests when they visit cultivated areas in the dry season, causing real damage to crops. They will perch in trees and on buildings, often returning to the same spot each night to roost.
Egyptian Geese are notoriously bad-tempered especially during breeding season. They are quarrelsome and aggressive, very intolerant of other birds, including their own kind. They can even be vicious. The males hiss and the females make a cackling noise.
Egyptian Geese stay in small flocks of family units for the majority of the year, and pair up only during breeding. They usually walk away from danger, seldom flying unless they are surprised. Their flight looks heavy and goose-like, with slow wing-beats. They may fly together in an irregular V-shape formation or in a long line.
Breeding and Nesting
Egyptian Geese are sexually mature at 2 years. It is believed they mate for life. They can breed year around, but usually breed in the spring or at the end of a dry season. They have a noisy courtship with much honking, feather displays, and neck stretching. Pairs nest alone and are excellent parents. They build their nests in a variety of locations including: trees, ledges, on buildings, on the ground, in burrows, and on cliffs. They also use a variety of nesting materials, but the nests are always lined with soft, downy feathers. The female lays 5-8 eggs which are incubated for 28 days. If the nest is built up high, the parents will call to the chicks from down below, until the chicks jump to the ground. The young chicks are reared by both parents. They fly at 11 weeks, but remain with the parents for more several weeks.
After breeding, they will gather in large molting flocks.
Photo Gallery Egyptian Goose
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