Alopochen aegyptiacus (Egyptian Goose)

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]; Legu (also applied to Spur-winged goose) [Tswana]; Nijlgans [Dutch]; Ouette d'gypte [French]; Nilgans [German]; Ganso do Egipto [Portuguese]

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Alopochen aegyptiacus (Egyptian Goose)

Egyptian goose with chicks, Boulder's Beach, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ]

Alopochen aegyptiacus (Egyptian Goose) Alopochen aegyptiacus (Egyptian Goose)
Immature Egyptian goose, Paarl Bird Sanctuary, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ] Egyptian goose, Milnerton Sewage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]
Alopochen aegyptiacus (Egyptian Goose)

Egyptian goose with chicks, Paarl Bird Sanctuary, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

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. 

Records

Heaviest adult female 2.29 kg
Heaviest adult male 3.01 kg
Lightest adult female 1.46 kg
Lightest adult male 1.69 kg
Longest living 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.  

Distribution of Egyptian goose in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Call

 
   

Recorded by P. Frost, Kruger National Park, 1982. [ Transvaal Museum]

 

Movements

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.

Predators and parasites

Food

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. 

  • Plant matter:
    • grass leaves (grazed)
      • Cynodon dactylon (Couch grass)
    • seeds 
      • stripped from grasses
      • spilled grain from crops including:
        • maize
        • wheat
        • oats
        • lucerne
        • barley
        • groundnuts
        • sunflowers
    • shoots and leaves 
      • including from young crops
      • Cyperus articulatus along water's edge
      • Polygonum senegalense along water's edge
    • aquatic plants
      • Potamogeton pectinatus (Sago pondweed)
    • corms
      • Cyperus esculentus (sedge)
  • Invertebrates form a small portion of the diet (more prominent in the diet of the chicks) and include:
    • earthworms
    • termite alates - eaten when available
    • ants
    • caterpillars
    • moths
    • crickets
    • beetles

Breeding

  • 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, crows, raptors, Sociable 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. 
Alopochen aegyptiacus (Egyptian Goose)  

Egyptian goose nest with eggs, Grootdraai Dam, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Johan van Rensburg ]

 
  • 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 Fish eagles

Threats

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. 

References

  • 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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