The Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is a member of the duck, goose, and swan family Anatidae. It is native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley.
Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the Ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork. Because of their popularity chiefly as an ornamental bird, escapees are common and feral populations have become established in Western Europe, the United States, and New Zealand.
The Egyptian goose is believed to be most closely related to the shelducks (genus Tadorna) and their relatives, and is placed with them in the subfamily Tadorninae.
It swims well and in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck, hence the English name. It is 63–73 cm (25–29 in) long.
The sexes of this species are identical in plumage but the males average slightly larger. There is a fair amount of variation in plumage tone, with some birds greyer and others browner, but this is not sex- or age-related. A large part of the wings of mature birds are white, but in repose the white is hidden by the wing coverts. When it is aroused, either in alarm or aggression, the white begins to show. In flight or when the wings are fully spread in aggression, the white is conspicuous.
The voices and vocalizations of the sexes differ, the male having a hoarse, subdued duck-like quack which seldom sounds unless it is aroused. The male Egyptian goose attracts its mate with an elaborate, noisy courtship display that includes honking, neck stretching and feather displays. The female has a far noisier raucous quack that frequently sounds in aggression and almost incessantly at the slightest disturbance when tending her young.
This is a largely terrestrial species, which will also perch readily on trees and buildings. Egyptian geese typically eat seeds, leaves, grasses and plant stems. Occasionally, they will eat locusts, worms, or other small animals. Until the goslings are a few weeks old and strong enough to graze, they feed largely on small aquatic invertebrates, especially freshwater plankton. As a result, if anoxic conditions lead to the production of botulinum toxin and it gets passed up the food chain via worms and insect larvae insensitive to the toxin, entire clutches of goslings feeding on such prey may die. The parents, who do not eat such organisms to any significant extent, generally remain unaffected.
Both sexes are aggressively territorial towards their own species when breeding and frequently pursue intruders into the air, attacking them in aerial “dogfights”. Egyptian geese have been observed attacking aerial objects such as drones that enter their habitat as well. Neighboring pairs may even kill another’s offspring for their own offspring’s’ survival, as well as for more resources.
This species will nest in a large variety of situations, especially in holes in mature trees in parkland. The female builds the nest from reeds, leaves and grass and both parents take turns incubating the eggs. Egyptian geese usually pair for life. Both the male and female care for the offspring until they are old enough to care for themselves. Such parental care, however, does not include foraging for the young, who, being precocial, forage for themselves.
In their native range, predators of Egyptian geese include leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, crocodiles and Old-World vultures.
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