Alopochen aegyptiacaEgyptian goose

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Geographic Range

Alopochen aegyptiaca is widely distributed throughout its native range, Africa, and southern Europe. It is especially common in southern Africa, below the Sahara and in the Nile Valley. In the 18th century, Alopochen aegyptiaca was introduced into Great Britain, and a substantial population still thrives there today. Currently Alopochen aegyptiaca is colonizing the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. (Lensink, 1998; VanPerlo, 1999)

Habitat

Egyptian geese will not populate densely wooded areas, though they can be found in meadows, grasslands, and agricultural fields. Most of their time is spent in rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands. They can be found as high as 4000 m. (Jensen, et al., 2002; McLachlan and Liversidge, 1940; VanPerlo, 1999)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range elevation
    4000 (high) m
    13123.36 (high) ft

Physical Description

Egyptian geese have long necks, long pink legs, a pink bill and brown eye patches encircling each eye. They are distinguished from closely related species by a brown patch in the middle of the chest. The upper wings and the head are brown, while the rest of the body is light brown. The underside of the wings is white and green. Juveniles do not have the brown eye patches or a patch on the chest.

Egyptian geese are anywhere from 63 to 73 cm in height and they can weigh from 1.5 to 2.3 kg. The wingspan is fairly large, measuring 38 cm, on average.

Distinguishing between males and females can be a challenge. The females are smaller than the males, but otherwise both sexes look alike. One way to tell them apart is by their sound. Males make a raspy hiss, while females produce a cackling sound. Although they are not terribly vocal, when they are feeling aggressive or stressed they will make a great deal of noise. (Jensen, et al., 2002; Newman, 1983; Sclater, 1906; VanPerlo, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    1500 to 2250 g
    52.86 to 79.30 oz
  • Range length
    73 to 63 cm
    28.74 to 24.80 in
  • Range wingspan
    35 to 40 cm
    13.78 to 15.75 in
  • Average wingspan
    38 cm
    14.96 in

Reproduction

The males are quite aggressive when mating. Each male performs a noisy and elaborate courtship display, emitting unusually loud honking noises. Under normal circumstances, Egyptian geese are reserved, quiet animals, but during mating season they are just the opposite. A male will act in this manner in order to attract a female. Since Egyptian geese are monogamous, one male and one female nest alone in dense vegetation, holes, or simply on the ground. (Newman, 1983; Priest, 1929)

Egyptian geese breed in the spring or at the end of the dry season (The breeding season is anywhere from July to March, depending on the area). At the age of two, Alopochen aeygptiacus reach sexual maturity. Nest locations are usually near water for safety and near grassland for feeding; the nests are made out of feathers and vegetation and are located in dense vegetation, holes, or simply on the ground. Pairs sometimes find nests on the ground or use deserted nests of other larger bird species (such as Buteo buteo (common buzzard) or Pica pica (black-billed magpie)), which can be located in trees or on high ledges. The male goose fertilizes the female internally. Five to twelve eggs are laid, and they are incubated for 28 to 30 days. The young fledge in 70 days. (Lensink, 1998; Priest, 1929; VanPerlo, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Egyptian Geese breed just once each year.
  • Breeding season
    The majority breed in the spring or at the end of the dry season. The breeding season is anywhere from July to March, depending on the area.
  • Range eggs per season
    5 to 12
  • Range time to hatching
    28 to 30 days
  • Average fledging age
    70 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Incubation lasts from 28 to 30 days and is done by both parents. The father protects the eggs and chicks, while the mother guides them and keeps them close to her. The chicks are precocial. (Priest, 1929; VanPerlo, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • precocial
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan of Alopochen aegyptiacus in the wild has not been documented. At the Woodland Park Zoo, an Egyptian goose lived for fourteen years. (Jensen, et al., 2002)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    14 (high) years

Behavior

These geese stay together in small flocks throughout the year, mainly for protection. Egyptian geese pair up during the breeding season, but otherwise they remain in their flocks. Although they are mainly sedentary, they move to another body of water if a period of drought occurs in their current home range. They may wander from the water during the day in search of food in either the grasslands or agricultural fields. They always return to the water at night. (VanPerlo, 1999)

Home Range

The geese usually settle in one pond, lake, stream or river for their entire lives, unless predators become too abundant or drought occurs. (Petri, 1998; Prozesky, 1970; VanPerlo, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Distinguishing between male and female Egyptian geese can be a challenge. One way to tell them apart is by their sound. Males make a raspy hiss, while females produce a cackling sound. Although they are not terribly vocal, when they are feeling aggressive or stressed they will make a great deal of noise.

The males are quite aggressive when mating. Each male performs a noisy and elaborate courtship display, emitting unusually loud honking noises. (Newman, 1983; VanPerlo, 1999)

Food Habits

Egyptian geese are mainly herbivores, they eat young grass from grasslands or savannahs, grains (particularly wheat) from agricultural fields, and soft vegetation like leaves and other detritus. Many tend to forage away from the water in pastures or arable land. Part of their diet includes a wide variety of small insects, terrestrial worms and frogs that live in nearby ponds. (Mangnall and Crowe, 2002; VanPerlo, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

Egyptian geese swim, travel and feed in flocks. Living in flocks may be a defense against predators since there are more individuals present to look out for predators and give a warning.

Predators include: lions (Panthera leo), cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), hyenas (subfamily Hyaeninae), crocodiles (genus Crocodylus) and vultures (family Accipitridae). (Lensink, 1998; Petri, 1998)

Ecosystem Roles

Since these geese tend to eat much of their food on land, they help disperse seeds, break up soil and decompose dead plants. (Lensink, 1998; Sclater, 1906)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Alopochen aegyptiacus are not hunted by many people because they live in such remote locations, but some farmers may shoot at them to scare them away from their agricultural fields. Egyptian Geese may also aid in decreasing pest populations around lakes or fields. (Mangnall and Crowe, 2002)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Due to the large numbers of Egyptian geese in southern Africa, farmers have been known to complain about attacks on their crops. Groups of geese graze on young, sprouting plants, causing great damage to the farmer's crops. (Jensen, et al., 2002; Mangnall and Crowe, 2002)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

As the most widely distributed member of their family in Africa, Egyptian geese seem to be managing quite well. Due to the increased availability of water in Southern Africa, numbers have gone up in the past few years. Egyptian geese are listed as Appendix III by CITES. (Jensen, et al., 2002; Mangnall and Crowe, 2002)

Contributors

Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Anna Tattan (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

biodegradation

helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

Jensen, D., B. Bohmke, M. Bluewater, J. Bierlein. 2002. "Animal Fact Sheets - Egyptian Goose" (On-line). Woodland Park Zoo. Accessed March 30, 2004 at http://www.zoo.org/educate/fact_sheets/savana/egoose.htm.

Lensink, R. 1998. Temporal and spatial expansion of the Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiacus in The Netherlands. Journal of Biogeography, 1/25: 251-263.

Mangnall, M., T. Crowe. 2002. Population dynamics and the physical and financial impacts to cereal crops of the Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus on the Agulhas Plain, Western Cape, South Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 90(3): 231-246.

McLachlan, G., R. Liversidge. 1940. Roberts Birds of South Africa. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.

Newman, K. 1983. Newman's Birds of Southern Africa. South Africa: Southern Books.

Petri, S. 1998. Molt patterns of nonbreeding white-faced whistling-ducks in South Africa. The Auk, 115(3): 774-780.

Priest, C. 1929. A Guide to the Birds of Southern Rhodesia and a Record of Their Nesting Habits. London: William Clowes and Sons Ltd.

Prozesky, O. 1970. A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa. Great Britain: Harper Collins.

Sclater, W. 1906. The Birds of South Africa. London: R.H. Porter.

VanPerlo, B. 1999. Birds of South Africa. Italy: Harper Collins.