Blue-winged goose (Cyanochen cyanoptera)

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Blue-winged goose fact file

Blue-winged goose description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusCyanochen (1)

The blue-winged goose can be a hard bird to spot when it is on the ground, a grey-brown shape against a brown, marshy background; but when this bird takes off, the large powder-blue patch on its wings makes it unmistakable (3). Both male and female blue-winged geese are very similar in appearance, other than the female is typically smaller (2). Both sexes have brownish-grey plumage, which is darker on the upperparts and paler on the forehead and throat. The feathers on the breast and belly have pale centres, resulting in a mottled appearance, and the tail, legs and bill are black (2). The feathers of the wing have a faint metallic green sheen and the upper wing coverts are pale blue (4), giving this species its name. Juvenile blue-winged geese are similar in appearance to the adults, other than their wings lack the green gloss (2).

Also known as
Abyssinian blue-winged goose.
French
Ouette à ailes bleues.
Spanish
Ganso Aliazul.
Size
Length: 60 - 75 cm (2)
Wingspan: 120 - 142 cm (2)
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Blue-winged goose biology

Although the blue-winged goose is typically found by running or standing water (2), this portly goose rarely swims (3), but it is a capable walker and runner (4). It often occurs on the banks of rivers and lakes, where it grazes on grasses, sedges and other vegetation, although it is also known to occasionally feed on insects, worms, freshwater molluscs and small reptiles (5).

The blue-winged goose is often found in large flocks of 50 to 100 individuals, until the arrival of the breeding season, when it occurs in small groups or single pairs (5). The breeding season occurs in the drier months between March and June, when the blue-winged goose constructs a nest on the ground, hidden amongst vegetation. After breeding, the blue-winged goose moves to lower altitudes for the wetter, non-breeding season (5).

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Blue-winged goose range

The blue-winged goose is found only in the highlands of Ethiopia (5), a plateau that begins at 1,500 metres and rises up to 4,570 metres. The isolation of this unique habitat means that many of the animals and plants of the highlands are found nowhere else in the world (6).

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Blue-winged goose habitat

Within the Ethiopian highlands, sometimes called ‘the roof of Africa’ (6), the blue-winged goose is found in grassy meadows and pastures (2), generally close to streams, rivers, lakes, or marshy, swampy areas (5).

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Blue-winged goose status

The blue-winged goose is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Blue-winged goose threats

The threats to the blue-winged goose, and to the other flora and fauna of the Ethiopian highlands, ultimately all result from the phenomenal human population growth that has occurred in Ethiopia in recent years. In 1940, the population of Ethiopia was seven million; by 2004 this had risen to an incredible 70 million (7). With eighty percent of the human population living in the highland and using the land for agriculture and livestock (7), it is not surprising that the wildlife of the highlands has been affected. The blue-winged goose is impacted as wetlands are drained for agriculture, land is eroded by large numbers of cattle, and overgrazing by livestock results in competition for their primary food source (5) (7).

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Blue-winged goose conservation

While there appears to be no specific measures in place to conserve the blue-winged goose, this species will benefit from actions to conserve the habitat and wildlife of the Ethiopian highlands. A number of this species’ important breeding areas lie within the Bale Mountains National Park (5), and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation is working to protect the fauna and flora of this region, although, unfortunately, conservation efforts over the years have been hampered by famine, civil unrest and war (7). It has been proposed that further important breeding sites, as well as other vital non-breeding areas, require protection if this threatened species is to thrive (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Molluscs
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Ogilvie, M. and Young, S. (2002) Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  3. Couzens, D. (2008) Top 100 Birding Sites of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. Johnsgard, P. (1965) Handbook of Waterfowl Behaviour: Tribe Tadornini (Sheldgeese and Shelducks). University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
  5. BirdLife International (September, 2009)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  6. Bambaradeniya, C., Flores, C., Ginsberg, J., Holing, D., Lumpkin, S., McKay, G., Musick, J., Quilty, P., Stonehouse, B., Woehler, E.J. and Woodruff, D. (2009) The Illustrated Atlas of Wildlife. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California.
  7. Mittermeier, R.A., Robles-Gil, P., Hoffmann, M., Pilgrim, J.D., Brooks, T.M., Mittermeier, C.G., Lamoreux, J.L. and Fonseca, G. (2004) Hotspots Revisited: Earth's Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Ecoregions. Cemex, Mexico City.
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Blue-winged goose calling  
Blue-winged goose calling

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