Nil goose, African sheldgoose
The Egyptian goose - also known as the Nil goose - is named for its place of origin (being the Nile Valley in Africa) and is a large, very distinctive waterbird with conspicuous eye patches of dark chocolate-brown. The female resembles the male, though is smaller, often with darker markings on her beak. The genders can also be told apart by their calls, as the male makes a strong, hoarse hissing noise, while the female produces a harsh, trumpeting quack. Young Egyptian geese have a duller color and have a gray tinge on their forewings, and their crown and neck are darker, with yellowish legs and beak.
Egyptian geese are widespread throughout Africa except in deserts and dense forests. In addition, there are numerous introduced populations derived from escaped ornamental birds in Western Europe, Florida and New Zealand. They inhabit a range of open country wetland habitats, including rivers, dams, marshes, lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, offshore islands and sewage works. They prefer bodies of water with open shorelines which are close to agricultural land or grasslands where they can graze.
Habits and lifestyle
Egyptian geese remain together in small flocks during the year, primarily for protection. During the breeding season they pair up, but otherwise stay with their flocks. They are mostly non-migratory and will generally move about only if water in their area is in short supply. They are good swimmers but most of their time is spent on land. During the day they may wander away from the water in search of food in grasslands or agricultural fields but at night always return to the water. Both genders are aggressively territorial with their own species during breeding and often pursue intruders in flight, attacking them in "dogfights" in the air.
flock, gaggle, skein, wedge
Diet and nutrition
Egyptian geese are primarily herbivores, feeding on grass, seeds, stems and leaves from various plants, as well as grains, potatoes and other types of vegetables. They also eat worms and locusts.
Egyptian geese are monogamous and a pair stays together for their whole life. Males are quite aggressive during mating. Each male performs an elaborate and noisy courtship display, producing unusually loud honking noises for the purpose of attracting a female. These geese breed in spring or when the dry season ends. A pair nests on its own on the ground, sheltered by vegetation, sometimes higher on a ledge or in a tree, or in an abandoned nest of another species up in a tree, or inside a hole. Females lay 5 to 11 creamy white eggs. Incubation is by the female only and lasts for around 28 to 30 days. Births are synchronized. Both the male and the female feed and care for the chicks. The young fledge at about 60 to 75 days, remaining under the care of their parents for almost 4 months. The chicks reach maturity when they are 2 years old.
late spring or the end of the dry season
The Egyptian goose is a relatively common and widespread species, and currently is not considered to be under threat of extinction. However, in parts of its range, being regarded as agricultural pests, they are shot or poisoned, and sometimes they are hunted for sport.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Egyptian geese total population size. Currently this species is classified as least concern (LC) but its numbers are decreasing.
Since Egyptian geese tend to eat much of their food on a ground, therefore they help to disperse seeds to other areas through their droppings, break up the soil and speed up the decomposition of dead plants.
Fun facts for kids
- Egyptian geese were domesticated in the time of the ancient Egyptians, who viewed them as sacred, depicting them often in their artwork.
- The Greeks and Romans also had Egyptian Geese in their domestic flocks.
- The Egyptian Goose is not actually a goose, but a shelduck: a cross between a duck and a goose. It has many characteristics of a duck, but also some external traits of a goose. It is the most widely spread of all African waterfowl.
- Egyptian geese usually get away from danger by walking, seldom flying, except when they are surprised. Flying looks goose-like and heavy, with slow wing-beats. The geese may fly together, forming an irregular V-shape, or they may fly in a long line.
- Chicks, born in very up high nests, must draw on their courage to jump out into the void when leaving the nest. Their parents do not help, but call from the ground with encouragement to make this sometimes vertiginous fall.