Cape Barren Goose Fact File
The cape barren goose is a large blue-grey bird. On the crown of the head the feathers are white. They have darker wingtips and a darker trailing edge of their wing. The short bill is black and covered by a large yellow cere.
Their legs are a deep pink color with black feet. On the feet there is reduced webbing which is an adaptation to spending most of their time on land.
Females are slightly smaller than males. Their body measures 75-90cm (29.5-35.4in) long with a wingspan of 1.7m (5.5ft) across. An average weight for the cape barren goose is 4-6kg (8.75-13lbs).
The cape barren goose is a herbivore. They feed on grasses, herbs, succulents, legumes and other vegetation.
Large amounts of salt are taken in with their food. This is excreted through a nasal gland. They are able to drink salty and brackish water meaning they can remain on islands year round.
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Australia is the native home of the cape barren goose. Here they can be found throughout Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. They can also be found on a number of offshore islands.
An introduced population of the cape barren goose has been established in New Zealand. In Australia they have been introduced to Kangaroo Island where they did not naturally occur.
They make their home in coastal areas of Australia. These habitats may include shrubland, grassland and wetlands.
Cape barren goose are almost always found near water such as the sea, dams, swamps, lakes and lagoons.
Cape barren geese breed from May to September. Pairs remain together for life. Throughout breeding season they are highly aggressive and will chase off anything which threatens them.
The male will form a nest out of grasses and plant matter which is then lined with soft feathers.
In to this nest the female will deposit between four and seven creamy white eggs.
These eggs are incubated for six weeks after which they hatch. They are incubated by the female while both parents help brood the eggs. At hatching the chicks are covered by downy feathers which are striped with white and brown.
The chicks will follow their parents and feed on grasses.
During summer many of these birds move from islands to the mainland.
In flight a cape barren goose will make a loud ‘ark-ark-ark’ call.
Pairs remain together year round. In parts of their range these pairs will form large flocks during summer. These flocks may number up to 300 members.
Predators and Threats
If threatened they make take to the water and swim which affords them some protection.
They will attempt to scare predators away by running towards them with their wings outstretched. These birds will also strike with their wings or bite.
By the 1950s humans had almost hunted the cape barren goose to extinction. Protection measures were put in place and their feeding areas were restored to help increase their population. Despite this rebound in their population they remain one of the world’s rarest geese.
Humans continue to affect their population through vehicle strikes.
Cape barren geese were originally believed to be the immature form of the black swan.
They are also known as the pig goose.
By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4330626
By Ltshears – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7410501
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
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Jones, R., 2020. Cape Barren Goose – Australian Bush Birds. [online] Australianbushbirds.info. Available at: <http://www.australianbushbirds.info/infc/cereopsis_novaehollandiae.html> [Accessed 4 October 2020].