Regarded as being sacred by early Egyptians, this native goose of the African continent was introduced into Europe and elsewhere as an ornamental wildfowl species in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century.
Whilst the adult male and female are similar in colour and patternation the male is generally larger with a fatter neck. The underparts are mainly pale tan or greyish white with a small brown patch at the centre of the lower breast. The back and upperparts are a mixture of brown, black, orange and white with a large white wing patch evident across the coverts on the upper and lower wing, contrasted with the very dark primary and secondary flight feathers. The head and top of the nape are a mid grey with the face and throat a paler grey. Half way down the neck there is often a dark brown band below which the grey colour morphs into a softer light buff, particularly on the underside. Around both eyes there is a large prominent chocolate brown patch. The top mandible of the bill is pink whilst the underside of the lower mandible is black. The eyes are a yellow or orange and the long legs and webbed feet are pink. Juveniles have a dark coloured upper wing area and lack both the brown eye patches and brown chest patch.
Known as being fairly aggressive and quarrelsome the males can be noisy and raucous calling in what is often described as a low, grating snarl. Females are restricted to a typical gooselike honking or cackle and both birds commonly hiss loudly when alarmed or threatened.
Egyptian Goose in flight
Egyptian geese spend many hours simply grazing on grasses and seeds but will also take grain crops and aquatic plants including pond weed.
A pair of Egyptian Geese
A native species of sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Egypt south of the Nile Valley, the Egyptian goose has also been introduced into south western Europe, including the British Isles, the Arabian Peninsula and the USA. Many of these ‘foreign’ populations have expanded from original escapees but have now set up permanent residence in a number of North American states including Texas, Florida, Arkansas and southern California. They are generally non migratory.
Egyptian Goose taking off from the water
Preferring wetland areas these geese are often seen in pairs or small family groups and are immediately identifiable by the large brown eye patches and bold white wing areas. In the breeding season they may gather in large groups of around fifty birds. During the morning, evening and around midday adult birds can normally be seen grazing on grasses and seeds and although they are fully proficient swimmers they spend the majority of their time on land.
Egyptian Goose with chicks
The breeding season varies upon location but within Africa will vary from year- round to periods towards the end of the dry season which again will vary from country to country and region to region. Elsewhere eggs are normally produced in late spring and will consist of one brood of between 5 – 12 creamy white eggs which are incubated by both parents for around thirty days. Fledging occurs from sixty to seventy five days from hatching. The nests are usually built using grasses, reeds and leaves, lined with down and located at ground level. Occasionally pairs will take over abandoned nests from other large bird species. Parents can be extremely brutal towards neighbouring nestlings of their own species when feeding, foraging or caring for their own young, even to go so far as to killing them.
Pair of Egyptian Geese with their chicks
Egyptian Goose with young
The lifespan of Egyptian geese in the wild is between fifteen to twenty years.
This large bird arrives on our shores from Iceland to overwinter in late September, returning northwards to breed from mid March onwards.
During the winter the population of this rare resident breeding duck increases by 55 times to that of the summer, with the influx of many thousands of others overwintering, having arrived from Russia and Eastern Europe.
A native of Japan and China, the mandarin duck was first introduced into the UK in the 18th century and started populations in the wild in the 1930’s following escapes from captivity. The UK population is estimated to be in the region of 7,000 birds.
Widespread throughout the northern hemisphere, the common merganser is the largest of the saw billed fish eating ducks. There are three sub-species with the Eurasian variant frequently known as the Goosander.
The word scoter is often used to define northern sea ducks. There are six different species of scoter, all of which are monotypic and three of which are confined to North America. The Common Scoter like the Velvet Scoter can only be found in Europe and Asia whilst the Stejneger’s Scoter is a native of Asia alone.
Winter visitors to the UK, formerly considered a full species, but now considered a sub-species of the Tundra Swan.