Ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps)

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Male ruddy-headed goose
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Ruddy-headed goose fact file

Ruddy-headed goose description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusChloephaga (1)

The ruddy-headed goose has boldly patterned plumage, with fine brown and blackish barring on the shoulders and breast, becoming more distinct on the flanks. From the shoulders, the barring merges into the grey-brown plumage of the back, blending into a dark grey tail (2). As its name suggests, the ruddy-headed goose has a reddish-brown head, with an indistinct white ring around the eye. Its relatively short bill is black, and the orange legs bear distinct black marks on the knee joints and on the feet. Male ruddy-headed geese can be distinguished by their larger size, and also by their high, whistling call, which contrasts with the female’s lower, short, quacking sound (2).

Size
Length: 50 - 59 cm (2)
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Ruddy-headed goose biology

The ruddy-headed goose is generally seen in flocks, often mixing with the upland goose (Chloephaga picta) and the ashy-headed goose (Chloephaga poliocephala) (5). Almost entirely vegetarian, the ruddy-headed goose feeds on roots, leaves, stems, and the seed-heads of grasses and sedges (8). These geese rarely swim, preferring instead to forage in natural grasslands, pastures and agricultural lands (5), where it often digs out food with its bill. While the Falkland Islands population is virtually sedentary, the mainland population moves north in winter, from Tierra del Fuego to the grasslands, pastures and croplands of southern Buenos Aires province (6) (9).

The ruddy-headed goose breeds in September and October. Nests lined with down are constructed among vegetation or boulders. Five to eight eggs are laid into this nest and are incubated for around 30 days (8).

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Ruddy-headed goose range

The ruddy-headed goose is broadly divided into two populations. The mainland population breeds in southern Patagonia of Chile and Argentina, and winters at the southern end of Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. The Falkland Islands population remains on the islands all year round. Whilst the Falkland Islands population is not threatened, the mainland population has suffered serious declines (4).

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Ruddy-headed goose habitat

In the Falklands, the ruddy-headed goose inhabits flooded meadows and open grasslands. On mainland Patagonia, the goose can be found in freshwater marshes (mallines and vegas), moving to the grasslands, pastures and croplands of southern Buenos Aires province in the winter (5) (6) (7).

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Ruddy-headed goose status

The ruddy-headed goose is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Ruddy-headed goose threats

In the 1960s the ruddy-headed goose was proclaimed a pest by the Argentinean Federal Government, as it was thought to feed heavily on wheat and corn crops in Buenos Aires, as well as competing with sheep and cattle stocks for grassland resources in southern Patagonia. As a result, the ruddy-headed goose was persecuted, and declines of the mainland population were significant (5). The introduction of the Patagonian fox (Pseudalopex griseus) in 1951 contributed to these declines, due to foxes preying on the nests of the goose, and the mainland population was pushed to the brink of extinction. Hunting for sport and possible poisoning by agricultural chemicals continue to place pressure on the remaining geese on the mainland (4).

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Ruddy-headed goose conservation

Three projects were run by Wetlands International, with support from the Convention on Migratory Species, to conserve and manage the ruddy-headed goose in Chile and Argentina (6). As well as updating information on population numbers and distribution, and initiating an intensive public awareness campaign, the project has created an ‘Action Plan’ for the conservation of the species and has successfully created a reserve at the mouth of the San Juan River, Chile; an important nesting area of the ruddy-headed goose (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For further information on the ruddy-headed goose see:

  • BirdLife International:
    www.birdlife.org
  • Madsen, J., Matus, R., Blank, O., Benegas, L., Mateazzi, G. and Blanco, D.E. (2003) Population status of the Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps) in Tierra del Fuego and mainland Patagonia (Chile and Argentina). Ornitología Neotropical, 14(1): 15-28.
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Authentication

Authenticated (15/04/08) by Daniel E. Blanco, South American Programme Leader, Wetlands International.
http://www.wetlands.org/LatinAmerica/Sp/index.aspx

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Glossary

Mallines and vegas
Wetland habitats typical of Patagonia.
Primaries
In birds, the outer flight feathers.
Territorial
An animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Strange, I.J. (1992) A Field Guide to the Wildlife of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  3. CMS (March, 2008)
    http://www.groms.de/
  4. Blanco, D.E., Zalba, S.M., Belenguer, C.J., Pugnali, G. and Goni, H.R. (2003) Status and conservation of the ruddy-headed goose Chloephaga rubidiceps in its wintering grounds (Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina). Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 76(1): 47 - 55.
  5. BirdLife International (March, 2008)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=394&m=0
  6. Blanco, D.E. (2008) Pers. comm.
  7. Madsen, J., Matus, R., Blank, O., Benegas, L., Mateazzi, G. and Blanco, D.E. (2003) Population status of the Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps) in Tierra del Fuego and mainland Patagonia (Chile and Argentina). Ornitología Neotropical, 14(1): 15 - 28.
  8. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1992) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  9. Blanco, D.E., Matus, R., Blank, O., de la Balze, V.M. and Zalba, S.M. (2006) The Ruddy-headed Goose Chloephaga rubidiceps mainland population: a flyway perspective. In: Boere, G.C., Galbraith, C.A. and Stroud, D.A. (Eds) Waterbirds around the World. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, UK.
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Male ruddy-headed goose  
Male ruddy-headed goose

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