Classification and Range
Egyptian geese are in the family Anatidae. This family is distributed worldwide and includes 147 species in 41 genera. Egyptian geese live throughout much of Africa, mostly south of the Sahara and in the Nile Valley.
Egyptian geese prefer almost any wetlands in open areas. They do not inhabit densely wooded wetlands. In Ethiopia, they live in habitat as high as 13,200 feet (4,023 m).
In the wild, estimated to be 15 years. In zoos, they can live up to 35 years.
In the wild: unlike some species of waterfowl, they do not filter their food. Instead, they eat a variety of vegetation, such as the grasses, stems, seeds, berries and leaves of several different kinds of plants. They also occasionally eat insects and small animals.
At the zoo: waterfowl pellets, romaine lettuce and an occasional apple.
Egyptian geese remain in small flocks of family units through the majority of the year, and only pair up during the breeding season. They are mostly sedentary, but will move from their normal range to seek water during periods of drought.
Egyptian geese reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Males perform an elaborate and noisy courtship display to woo a prospective female. They usually breed in the spring or at the end of the dry season. Pairs nest alone in a variety of habitats, including dense vegetation on the ground, tree holes, or vacated nests previously used by other birds. Their nests are made out of a variety of plant matter that is softened by a lining of down feathers. The nest is usually located not far from water. The female incubates five to 12 yellowish-white eggs for approximately 28-30 days. Young have a duller appearance, and lack the distinctive brown eye and chest patch. Young fledge in about 70 days.
It's All in the Sound
It is difficult to identify male and female Egyptian geese. Both sexes look alike, although females are often slightly smaller. So, researchers identify males or females by sound. Though Egyptian geese are not very vocal, during times of stress or aggressive behavior, it's easy to distinguish males and females by their sound. Only males emit a raspy hiss, while females produce a loud cackling sound like 'honk-haah-haah-haah.'
One of the best times to witness the respective sounds of Egyptian geese is during their times of nesting. A mated pair is very protective of their territory and nest. The pair aggressively vocally defends it against intruders, and if necessary, will attack.
Location at the Zoo
Egyptian geese can be viewed at the hippopotamus area in the zoo's award-winning African Savanna. While visiting the African Savanna, keep a close watch for the Old World comb duck. Other savanna birds can be easily seen at the African Savanna aviary.
CEgyptian geese are not an endangered species, as they are the most widely distributed member of their family in Africa. During the 1900s, their numbers actually increased in South Africa. This was due to the increased availability of water via the building of dams and water irrigation projects. However, they are not immune to hunting, as farmers often consider them pests when large flocks gather to graze on young, sprouting plants. Unlike the widely distributed Egyptian goose, many species in the family Anatidae have not been so fortunate. As of 2004, there are at least 15 species listed as endangered, and 11 species listed as vulnerable. The primary reasons for the reduction of wild animal populations are human overpopulation and other activities that result in the destruction and fragmentation of habitat. Loggers remove vast forests for timber and other paper products, and industrial emissions pollute water and air resources. Expanding human communities and their agricultural needs are rapidly converting critical shoreline and riparian zone habitats. Humans also kill animals for their body parts to use in traditional medicines.
Woodland Park Zoo is Helping - With Your Support!
For many animals, flexible and sustainable conservation programs are essential. Partnerships with other zoos can support healthy captive populations, while in-situ field work provides successful on-ground solutions for helping the Egyptian goose's habitat.
Each in-situ project supported by the zoo aims to provide a broad, holistic approach to conservation, encompassing research, education, habitat and species preservation. This includes comprehensive, cooperative strategies to link the needs of animals with the people who share their ecosystems.
How You Can Help!
The effort to save endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Please do not buy products made from wild animal parts. Contact your elected representatives and express your views about conservation of endangered species and wild habitats.
Contact Woodland Park Zoo at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can support conservation efforts at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.
Sources and Suggested Reading
del Hoyo, Josep et al. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 1. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. 696 p.
Madge, Steve and Hilary Burn. 1988. Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA. 298 p.
Mackworth-Praed, C.W. and C.H.B. Grant. 1969. Birds of the Southern Third of Africa, Volume 1. Longmans, Green and Co Ltd, London, England. 688 p.
Scott, Sir Peter, ed. 1974. The World Atlas of Birds. Crescent Books, New York, NY. 272 p.
Poultry Page (Egyptian Geese fact sheet): http://www.feathersite.com