Commonly found in pairs (3), the contrast between the bright white plumage of the adult male and the dark, striped plumage of the female kelp goose presents a striking image (2). The male is almost entirely white, with the exception of the bill, which is black, and the legs and feet, which are orange. The female has more elaborate colouration, with chocolate-brown upperparts, head and neck, while the belly is boldly striped blackish-brown and white. The rump, tail feathers and underwing are also white, with the exception of the black primary feathers visible at the wing tips. The female’s bill is pink, the legs are orange, and there is a thin white ring around the eye. While both male and female juveniles resemble the adult female, the male acquires white plumage on the head, neck and upperparts in the first winter, becoming almost completely white by the second. Along with the contrasting appearances, both sexes produce different vocalisations, with the male kelp goose giving a repeated whistle, and the female, a harsh growl (2).
There are two subspecies of kelp goose, the lesser kelp goose, Chloephaga hybrida hybrida, and the greater kelp goose, Chloephaga hybrida malvinarum, which can be distinguished by size and location (2)
- Length: 52 – 65 cm (2)