Kolgans [Afrikaans]; Ilowe [Xhosa]; iLongwe [Zulu]; Lefaloa (also
applied to South African Shelduck) [South Sotho]; Lefaloa [North Sotho]; Dada
(generic name for duck or goose), Hanzi, Sekwe (generic name for duck or goose)
[Shona]; Sekwa (generic term for duck or goose) [Tsonga]; Legôu (also applied
to Spur-winged goose) [Tswana]; Nijlgans [Dutch]; Ouette d'Égypte [French];
Nilgans [German]; Ganso do Egipto [Portuguese]
A large brown to buff duck, easily distinguished from
other ducks by its large size, the dark brown eye patch and the brown patch in
the middle of the buff-coloured breast. Male and female look similar but the
male is larger; easiest distinguished on the basis of their call: whereas the
male hisses mainly, the female honks mainly. The Egyptian goose is one of the
most commonly encountered birds in southern Africa, found on wetlands, in
croplands and in urban areas. It is almost exclusively herbivorous feeding on
grass, seeds and aquatic plants.
Heaviest adult female
Heaviest adult male
Lightest adult female
Lightest adult male
15 yrs 10 months
Longest distance travelled
> 1000 km
Distribution and habitat
Widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as along the Nile
River Valley. It has also been introduced to England and The Netherlands where
it has become increasingly common. Within southern Africa it is the most
commonly encountered species of waterfowl and is found virtually everywhere
except highly arid regions and at very high altitudes. Found on virtually all
types of freshwater wetlands and even occasionally forages along the coastline
and swims in the sea. Also occurs on grass lawns in urban areas and in fields
with cereal crops.
From bird ringing records it is evident that birds are
capable of widespread movements such as from the Western Cape to Namibia and
from the Free State to Mozambique; dispersal distances typically range from 70
km to 800 km.
Primarily a grazer and grass seed stripper. Obtains the
seeds by grabbing the stem at about mid-length and pulling the seed head through
its bill, taking chomps at the seeds as they get broken off and accumulate at
the one side of the bill.
grass leaves (grazed)
Cynodon dactylon (Couch grass)
stripped from grasses
spilled grain from crops including:
shoots and leaves
including from young crops
Cyperus articulatus along water's edge
Polygonum senegalense along water's edge
Potamogeton pectinatus (Sago pondweed)
Cyperus esculentus (sedge)
Invertebrates form a small
portion of the diet (more prominent in the diet of the chicks) and include:
termite alates - eaten when available
Forms strong pair bond and highly territorial
with much hissing, honking and chasing of rival birds. Males sometimes
get into fights and try to bite the opposing male on the neck and at
the same time beat it with the wings.
Nest is made by the female and is a shallow bowl
of grass, reeds, leaves and down. The most usual nest site is on the
ground and in these circumstances the female first scrapes a shallow
hollow in the ground before constructing the rest of the nest with
plant material and down (see image below). However, nests are often in other situations
such as on top of old nests of Hamerkop,
weavers, herons and
cormorants; on cliff ledges; in and on buildings,
and in holes of trees. One of the most famous nests was one made by a
pair in a small room in the steeple of Grahamstown Cathedral.
Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from May to December.
The female lays 5-11 eggs, usually one per day,
and on completion of the clutch she incubates them for 28-30 days
before they hatch. During this time, the male spends most of his time
perched nearby and guarding their territory. The female leaves the
nest at least once a day for about half an hour at a time to go and
feed. Before leaving, she covers the eggs with down, which both makes
them less visible to predators and keeps them warm.
The chicks usually leave the nest within about
six hours of hatching, encouraged by calls by the female. Those in
elevated nests (up to 60 m above ground), jump off the edge and fall
to the ground, where they often lie stunned for up to about four
minutes before getting up and marching off with the parents to water
or feeding grounds. Chicks graze mainly but also eat grass seeds and
invertebrates. By 66 to 84 days old they are able to fly.
Adults are fiercely protective of their young and
will fearlessly attack potential predators such as
Chacma baboon and
Although it has evidently become less common in
Mozambique, in South Africa the Egyptian goose has become more widespread and
become much more abundant in some regions such as the Cape Peninsula.
Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts
- Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker
Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.
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