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The Egyptian Goose of Africa

Updated on December 8, 2018 | Source

The Egyptian Goose (Apolochen aegyptiacus) originated from the African continent and is native to the Nile Valley and the Sahara Desert and can be found living in wetlands. The bird has been introduced to many European countries in the late 18th century. The Egyptians in ancient times believed it was a sacred goose because the markings on the face appears to be like hieroglyphics, an ancient form of writing which was used in Egypt. The goose can be found in several artwork done by the ancient Egyptians.

The Egyptian Goose is a waterfowl bird and is part of the family Anatidae which consists of the duck, swan and goose species. The goose however, looks more like a duck and the fact that it behaves like a duck swimming in the water. That is why the goose is regarded as a shelduck, a large Old World duck in the genus Tadorna. This distinctive and colorful duck-lookalike has already been established as a breeding bird in Europe after its introduction a few centuries ago.

Feature and Character

The Egyptian Goose is a great swimmer and a diver and in flight, it looks more like a large seagull with its flapping long wings rather than a duck. Matter of fact, when the goose is flying high in the air, the bold white patch on the inner wing helps people to identify it as an Egyptian Goose. The sexes are indeed similar and the plumage are almost identical but the male goose is a little more distinct and bigger than the female.

Identifying which is male and which is female can be a problem due to the fact that they look very similar. However, one good way to identify the gender is to listen to their voice. The male goose will make an odd and throaty hissing sound. The female goose makes a cackling or clucking noise which is quite harsh and loud.

In general, the mature goose has a white and brown head. The neck and throat is also white, the eye is orange and pale, and surrounded by dark brown marks which makes it easy to recognize. The breast is orange with a dark patch in the middle, and the belly is dark grey. The back of the goose is black but it appears dark greyish to brown when in close up to it. The tail and the rear is black. The upperparts sometimes vary in the goose and is usually red to greyish-brown. The wings have an assortment of colors and ranges from white, chestnut, black and also green at the end of the wings. The nostrils and the tip are black and the beak appears pink. The legs are also pink.

The young ones is rather similar to the adult but the feathers on theirs are slightly duller. The juveniles also don't have the dark breast spot in the center and the dark brown marks around the eye. This may make it difficult to recognize a juvenile Egyptian goose but when the adults are nearby, then the young species are known. To be more specific and to make things easier in general, the shape of the Egyptian Goose's wings are tapered-wings and the tail is fan-shaped, and this may make it recognizable even further. Overall, the Egyptian Goose measures 65-72 centimeters in length and the wingspan on average is between 138-154 centimeters. The birds may weigh between1-4 kilograms.


Territorial Behavior and Habitat

The Egyptian Goose is regarded as an "angry bird" because of its aggression. In the mating season they are known to become vicious and are very territorial. They have no fear confronting other birds and will fight them if they dare to invade their territory in the breeding season. These bad-tempered waterbirds are very good at parenting their young ones and have strong relationships with the opposite sex.

The Egyptian Goose uses different areas for nesting the young compared to other species of goose. Even the nests located very high on tree tops, which have been abandoned by other birds, are used by the Egyptian Goose. They are also known to nest around old buildings and also build their nest on sharp cliffs. The eggs laid are white and usually between 5-8 eggs are laid. The incubator is the female and the days of incubation is around 28 days. The young ones start to fly after 70 days. Before that time, especially when the nesting is taking place high up in the trees, the male parent is usually hissing and the female making harsh clucking sounds at their young chicks to encourage them to get out of the nest and come to the ground.

Wikimedia (public domain worldwide)
Wikimedia (public domain worldwide) | Source

The Egyptian Goose dabbles in water especially around ponds, lakes and rivers. They prefer to inhabit in the forest where there's bodies of water and tree cavities to nest in. They graze on land in the day and they feed on insects, grasses, leaves, crops, herbs and grains found in grain fields. When dabbling in the water, it often feeds on aquatic plants, certain algae, and sometimes even feeds on worms and flying termites. Basically, they inhabit near the waters or wetlands and mainly in land areas where they can find food. In addition, they can be spotted around dams, reservoirs, marshes and even nearby estuaries.

As mentioned earlier, the Egyptian Goose is widespread in the African continent especially south of the Sahara Desert and in Egypt where the Nile Valley is. They have been introduced mainly in European countries, the Mediterranean regions and also in some Middle-Asian countries. The goose is also known as the African Sheldgoose. The Swahili name for this is called Mmisri bata bakini, which is a Bantu language used most commonly in east Africa. It is believed these sacred birds were domesticated in Ancient times by the Egyptians and were also used as poultry. In the UK, the Egyptian Goose has been declared a pest in 2009. Maybe due to the fact that they are "angry birds" and they destroy crops in nearby fields which probably makes them a public nuisance. They can also be aggressive if provoked by a human which is why they are declared as pests even further.


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