Anseranas semipalmatamagpie goose(Also: magpie-goose)

Geographic Range

Magpie geese are found only in their native Australia and the neighboring island of New Guinea, primarily in Pacific coastal areas. ("Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005)


Most magpie geese are found in wet grasslands, swamps, and other marshlands along the coast and rarely stray inland. ("Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005)

Physical Description

Magpie geese are black on the head, neck, tail, and wings. The rest of the body is white, with orange feet and legs. Magpie geese have only partially webbed feet and the head has a fairly obvious "knob" on it. Juveniles lack this "knob" and the white areas on their bodies are more gray. Females tend to be smaller than males. Their body mass varies between 2 and 3 kg and their length ranges from 70 to 90 cm. The average wingspan is 1.5 meters. ("Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005; "National Geographic", 2008; "NSW Threatened Species Website", 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    2 to 3 kg
    4.41 to 6.61 lb
  • Range length
    70 to 90 cm
    27.56 to 35.43 in
  • Average wingspan
    1.5 m
    4.92 ft


Magpie geese sometimes breed in pairs, but they usually breed in groups of three. Each group of three consists of a male and two females. In each trio, the two females are usually related to each other. Magpie geese breed seasonally. Information on mate attracting and mate guarding could not be found. (Kear, 2005; "Animal Bytes", 2008; "Parks and Wildlife Commision of the Northern Territory", 2007; Kear, 2005)

Magpie geese clutch size is between 3 and 8 eggs. They breed seasonally at the end of the wet season (February-June) in the floodplains that they live in. The incubation period varies from 24-35 days and fledgling occurs after about 3 months. To feed their young while they are still in the nests, the parents can bend nearby tall grass so the chicks can eat the seeds. All parents share the responsibility of incubating the eggs and caring for the young. Young are cared for by the parents until the following wet season. Average mass at hatching is 104.2 grams. Sexual maturity occurs at approximately 2 years of age. ("Animal Bytes", 2008; "Discover Life", 2008; "Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005; "National Geographic", 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Magpie geese breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from February to June.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 8
  • Average eggs per season
  • Range time to hatching
    24 to 35 days
  • Average fledging age
    3 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Both parents (and the second female when in trios) care for the young. They take turns incubating the eggs as well as providing food and protection for the hatched young. ("Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


Magpie geese can live to be over 32 years in the wild. ("Animal Bytes", 2008)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    32 (high) years


Magpie geese are social animals, living in flocks. These flocks travel together when migrating between areas during the wet and dry seasons. These geese swim and wade in the swamps and wetlands they inhabit. While raising chicks, they generally live in groups of three, consisting of one male and two females. They may roost in wooded areas. Their call is a loud "honk." ("Discover Life", 2008; "National Geographic", 2008)

Home Range

During the dry season, magpie geese generally concentrate near the Mary River and the South Alligator River. During the wet season, they may spread to other rivers for breeding. Most movements relate to changes in food availability or breeding habitat. Specific home range sizes are not reported. (Frith and Davies, 1961)

Communication and Perception

Magpie geese communicate vocally with loud "honks." These geese may shake their wings when feeling threatened or after antagonistic encounters. ("Observations on the Horned Screamer", 1973)

Food Habits

Magpie geese mainly eat swamp grass seeds, blades of dry grasses, and bulbs of spike-rush. They also eat large quantities of wild rice. These geese feed in large, noisy flocks. Parents help their chicks eat by bending down tall grass towards the nest so the chicks can eat the seeds from it. Although they are mainly herbivores, they incidentally ingest occasional small invertebrates. During the dry season, magpie geese must rely on roots and bulbs as their primary source of food. During the wet season, they can switch to grass as their main food. ("Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005; "Parks and Wildlife Commision of the Northern Territory", 2007; Frith and Davies, 1961)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Eggs and hatchlings are heavily preyed on by birds of prey, dingoes, snakes, and other small, terrestrial predators. Adult magpie geese are rarely preyed on, although they are hunted by humans. (Frith and Davies, 1961)

Ecosystem Roles

Magpie geese compete for resources with other seed-eaters in wetlands and act as prey for predators in the same areas. (Frith and Davies, 1961)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans hunt magpie geese for sport and for food.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of magpie geese on humans.

Conservation Status

In Australia, magpie geese are listed as "secure" (meaning "of least concern"), but each territory also has its own status. Magpie geese are listed as "endangered" in Victoria and South Australia, "secure" in Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, and "vulnerable" in New South Wales. They are considered "least concern" by the IUCN red list. ("Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet", 2005)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Rachael Wilber (author), Northern Michigan University, Alec R. Lindsay (editor, instructor), Northern Michigan University.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own

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

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.


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


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

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


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


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


having more than one female as a mate at one time


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


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


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


uses touch to communicate


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).


Living on the ground.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


2008. "Animal Bytes" (On-line). Accessed April 16, 2008 at

2008. "Discover Life" (On-line). Accessed April 16, 2008 at

2005. "Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact sheet" (On-line). Birds in Backyards. Accessed March 18, 2008 at

Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW). 2005. "NSW Threatened Species Website" (On-line). Accessed April 05, 2008 at

2008. "National Geographic" (On-line). Accessed April 05, 2008 at

1973. "Observations on the Horned Screamer" (On-line). Accessed April 18, 2008 at

2007. "Parks and Wildlife Commision of the Northern Territory" (On-line pdf). Accessed April 16, 2008 at

Frith, H., S. Davies. 1961. Ecology of the Magpie Goose, Anseranas semipalmata Latham (Anatidae). Wildlife Research, 6/2: 91-141. Accessed March 18, 2008 at

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, Geese and Swans. Oxford University: Oxford. Accessed April 16, 2008 at,M1.

Whitehead, P., K. Saalfeld. 2000. Nesting phenology of magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) in monsoonal northern Australia: responses to antecedent rainfall. Journal of Zoology, 251: 495-508. Accessed March 18, 2008 at

Whitehead, P., K. Tschimer. 1991. Patterns of Egg-Laying and Variation in Egg Size in the Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata: Evidence for Intra-specific Nest Parasitism. Emu, 91/1: 26-31. Accessed March 18, 2008 at