Egyptian Geese Birds in Florida
Goose Walking Around Like He Owns the Land
Egyptian geese are another non-native species like the Muscovy Ducks that was imported to the Florida peninsula by man. They were brought here to be ornamental waterfowl at golf courses and aviaries. One look at an Egyptian goose and you can see the appeal of having them “strut their stuff” in these Florida venues.
The goose is a very handsome non-native waterfowl. Male and female alike are just gorgeous to look at. From the pink feet and legs of the adults to the top of their heads they just have the “see how pretty I am” look. Beige feathers merge into delightful brown plumage which provides the geese with a soft look.
Their eyes are bright yellow and are surrounded by dark brown (chestnut) feathers. This circular patch of brown actually highlights the eyes. When they look at you it’s as though they were saying “I can see you clearly, see my eyes.”
Around the neck they have a thin necklace of brown feathers. To complement the brown feathers on the top of the wings they have a patch of brown on their breasts. The wings also have white patches which become visible when the bird displays or is in flight.
Showing Me His Back
Egyptian Goose Family
Habitat of the Pretty Goose
The origin of these geese is North Africa particularly around the Nile delta and Egypt (their name should have already alerted you to this). They have been domesticated for hundreds of years in Africa and were imported into the British Isles in the 1700s. They are a more recent introduction to the Florida landscape.
They like to hang out near in-land waters that have open areas nearby. Golf courses and housing developments around lakes with lots of open grass land around those lakes are ideal. The evenings are usually spent perched in a tree or on a building. They are good swimmers but spent most of their time on land.
This pair of geese appears to like this Florida canal and have made it their home. They graze on the grasses and weeds growing along the banks. Sometimes they will be seen on the other side of the path where there is more grass and plants. With the young ones in tow the water side grazing probably provides a safe escape route from anything that may threaten them such as a stray dog.
Like most birds they eat a variety of foods. Their main course is composed of grasses and herbs interspersed with worms and insects. When their natural food is insufficient, due to drying up during droughts or the dry season, they will take advantage of any nearby crops. Fortunately, Florida golf courses and complexes have mastered the skill of lawn watering which keeps the geese supplied with their favorite munchies and away from crop lands.
Young Egyptian Geese
Nesting and Parenting
Egyptian geese get together during the spring. The male does all the courting usually a display of his finery accompanied by loud honks which proclaim him available to the females. Once a bond between a male and female goose is formed they will stay together for life.
The geese will nest in a lot of different places. Most seem to prefer high places like the tops of trees, ledges or the tops of buildings. Some however will nest on the ground in a protected spot or even in burrows abandoned by other animals.
They build their nests from leaves, grass, and reeds if available then line the nest with goose down. The female will lay up to eight eggs. The eggs are incubated for about a month. The chicks then join the parents and the family will stay together while foraging and sleeping.
The adult geese are aggressively territorial and will fight off any other Egyptian geese that come near. They will also take an aggressive stance to anyone that approaches too close to the family. They allowed me to get within a few feet of them but then my approach was slow and easy. Even so they kept a yellow eye on me.
These birds can live up to 15 years in the wild and much longer in aviaries and zoos. Since the feral populations in Florida are partially protected they probably live longer on average although it is doubtful they reach the 35 year life span some in zoos have been known to reach.
Golf Course Goslings
Breeding on a Local Golf Course
As mentioned earlier in the article, Golf Courses make excellent habitat for the Egyptian Geese. The fairways, roughs and greens provide plenty of open grassy areas for them to hang out in. There are plenty of trees and bushes around for hiding in and to perch on. The same dense brushy areas that seem to attract golf balls can provide the shelter they need for nesting and hatching.
This mother goose came out with her goslings to enjoy a small pool of rainwater. We were doing a charity golf outing at the time when storms moved in and drenched everything. In 15 to 20 minutes the downpour created quite a few areas of standing water. It appears that standing water is a great place for mother goose to teach the babies about grooming.
She moved from one small bundle of feathers to the next, grooming them by spreading their feathers with her beak. The little guys watched and imitated and soon they all were fluffing out their feathers with their own little beaks. Fun to watch but I had to leave after a couple of shots and get back to the golf outing.
The babies are the proof that this goose is doing well in South Florida. They are breeding well across the land and expanding their flocks. Immigrants forced to come to the U.S.A who have successfully adapted to their new habitat.