Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)

Also known as: African sheldgoose
Synonyms: Anas aegyptica
  
French: Oie d'Egypte
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusAlopochen (1)
SizeLength: 63 - 73 cm (2) (3)
Wingspan: 134 - 154 cm (3)
Weight1.1 - 4 kg (4)
Top facts

The Egyptian goose is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) is a large, distinctive, pale-coloured waterbird which is easily recognised by the conspicuous dark chocolate-brown patch around its eye. The head and neck are pale buff, and there is another dark brown patch around the base of the beak, usually joined to the eye patch by a narrow line (2) (3).

The Egyptian goose has buff-coloured underparts, which become paler on the flanks and belly, and a variable but distinctive chocolate-brown patch on the lower breast (2) (3) (5). The upperparts usually vary from reddish- to grey-brown, with a black back, rump and tail, while the crown and back of the neck may show dark mottling, sometimes appearing reddish-brown. There is a narrow, dark reddish-brown collar around the base of the long neck (2) (3). The ends of the wings are black and bear an iridescent green speculum, which is separated from the contrasting white forewings by a narrow black line (2) (3) (5). The Egyptian goose has pinkish legs and feet, which become redder in the breeding season. The eyes are orange and the beak is pink, with a black tip, black nostrils and black edges (2) (3).

The female Egyptian goose resembles the male, but is smaller and often has darker markings on the beak (2) (3) (5). The sexes can also be distinguished by their calls, the male giving a strong but hoarse hissing sound while the female gives a harsh, trumpeting quack (2) (3). Juvenile Egyptian geese are duller in colour, with a grey tinge on the forewings, a darker crown and neck, and a yellowish beak and legs. Juveniles also lack the distinctive dark eye and breast patches of the adult (2) (3) (5).

The Egyptian goose is widespread in Africa south of the Sahara, particularly in eastern and southern Africa, and also occurs in the Nile Valley into Egypt (2) (3) (5) (6). This species also formerly occurred in Israel until the 1930s and in south-eastern Europe until the early 18th century (3) (5). Introduced populations now occur in Britain (2) (3) (5) (7), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates (2) (6) (8) (9).

This species inhabits a variety of wetland habitats in open country, including rivers, dams, lakes, reservoirs, marshes, estuaries, sewage works and sometimes offshore islands, and it occurs at elevations of up to around 4,000 metres in Ethiopia (2) (3) (5) (10). The Egyptian goose generally avoids densely forested areas (3) (5), appearing to prefer water bodies with open shorelines, close to grasslands or agricultural land where it can graze (2) (3) (10).

The Egyptian goose often grazes on land, feeding on a variety of plant matter including grasses, seeds, shoots, leaves, grain and crops. It also takes food items from shallow water, including algae and aquatic plants, and sometimes takes animal matter such as worms, locusts or winged termites (2) (5). In some areas, individuals undertake seasonal movements linked to water availability (2) (3) (5) and, after breeding, large flocks of Egyptian geese may gather during the annual moult (2) (6) (7).

The breeding season of this species varies with location (2) (5), but usually occurs in the spring or at the end of the dry season (5). In South Africa, breeding may occur at any time of year, but is mainly recorded from May to December with a July to October peak (11). The introduced population in the Netherlands breeds from February to August (8).

Pairs of Egyptian geese nest singly, typically building the nest out of reeds, leaves and grass, lined with down. The nest may be built among vegetation on the ground or near water, in a hole in an embankment or tree, on a cliff ledge or building, or even in the abandoned nest of another bird species (2) (5). Between 5 and 12 unmarked, white or creamy eggs are laid, hatching after 28 to 30 days. The female alone incubates the eggs, while the male guards the nesting territory (12). The chicks fledge at around 60 to 75 days, but do not reach sexual maturity until about two years old (2) (5). The Egyptian goose has lived up to 25 years in captivity (2).

The Egyptian goose is a widespread and relatively common species, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (6). In some parts of its range it is regarded as an agricultural pest (10) (13) (14) and is shot or poisoned, or sometimes hunted for sport (2) (3) (5) (6), although not in large numbers as its meat is not popular (2) (10).

In southern Africa the Egyptian goose has expanded its range during the last century, as a result of its ability to exploit dams and expanding agriculture (2) (5) (10). Introduced populations in Europe also appear to be increasing and to be extending their ranges (3) (7) (9).

In the UK, there are fears that as the Egyptian goose population increases the species could become a pest of arable crops and potentially compete with or even hybridise with native waterbirds. It may also cause damage to grasslands, pastures and crops through grazing and trampling, and its dropping could pose a possible health and safety hazard to humans using amenity grasslands (15).

There are not known to be any specific conservation measures in place for the Egyptian goose. However, it is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which aims to protect migratory species throughout their range (16), and on Annex II of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), which calls on parties to undertake conservation measures for birds which rely on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle (17).

In its introduced range in the UK, the Egyptian goose is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England, Wales and Scotland, which makes it an offence to release this species or allow it to escape into the wild (15).

Find out more about the Egyptian goose:

Authenticated (06/06/2011) by Dr Rob Little, Manager: DST/NRF Centre of Excellence, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town.
http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Kear, J. (2005) Ducks, Geese and Swans. Volume 1: General Chapters, and Species Accounts (Anhima to Salvadorina). Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Ogilvie, M.A. and Young, S. (2002) Photographic Handbook: Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. Milstein, P.le S. (1984) A waterfowl survey in southern Mozambique, with conservation implications. In: Ledger J.A. (Ed) Proceedings of the 5thPan-African Ornithological Congress. Southern African Ornithological Society, Johannesburg.
  5. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  6. BirdLife International - Egyptian goose (October, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=396&m=0
  7. Sutherland, W.J. and Allport, G. (1991) The distribution and ecology of naturalized Egyptian geese Alopochen aegyptiacus in Britain. Bird Study, 38: 128-134.
  8. Lensink, R. (1999) Aspects of the biology of Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiacus colonizing The Netherlands. Bird Study, 46: 195-204.
  9. Lensink, R. (1998) Temporal and spatial expansion of the Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiacus in The Netherlands, 1967-94. Journal of Biogeography, 25: 251-263.
  10. Maclean, G.L. (1997) Egyptian goose. In: Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.T., Parker, V. and Brown, C.J. (Eds.) The Atlas of Southern African Birds. Volume I: Non-passerines. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg. Available at:
    http://sabap2.adu.org.za/docs/sabap1/102.pdf
  11. Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. (2005) Roberts – Birds of Southern Africa, VIIthed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.
  12. Little, R. (May, 2011) Pers. Comm.
  13. Mangnall, M.J. and Crowe, T.M. (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 and Environment, 90: 231-246.
  14. Mangnall, M.J. and Crowe, T.M. (2001) Managing Egyptian geese on the croplands of the Agulhas Plain, Western Cape, South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research, 31: 25-34.
  15. GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Identification Sheet - Egyptian goose (October, 2013)
    https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/index.cfm?sectionid=47
  16. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (October, 2010)
    http://www.cms.int/
  17. Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (October, 2010)
    http://www.unep-aewa.org/