Spur-Winged Goose Fact File

Plectropterus gambensis








Wild 11 years

Captive 11 years



Plants, Insects, Seeds

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The spur-winged goose is named for the spurs which are present on both of their forewings. These are used in battles against other waterfowl.

These birds feed on a range of aquatic plants, seeds, fish and insects. Grazing takes place on the ground. Each day they move between their nesting site and feeding grounds.

They have a wide variability in their nesting site. Potential sites used include the nests of other birds, Aardvark burrows, on the ground, in a tree or a termite nest.

Spur-winged geese are one of the few species which is enjoying an increase in its population. This is despite threats such as hunting and collection for use in traditional medicine.

You can learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on below.


This large species of goose is named for the prominent spurs which are present on either wing. They are used in battle with other individuals.

Across the crown of the head, down the neck and across the back is glossy, black plumage. The upper parts often have an iridescent bronze-green sheen. White feathers are present on the sides of the face, prominently along the front edge of the wing and extending on to the underside of the body.

On top of the head is a small pinkish knob. This is more prominent in the males of the species.

The legs and feet of a spur-winged goose are pinkish.

Spur-winged geese have a light red beak.

A spur-winged goose measures 100cm (39in) long with a weight of between 6.4 and 10kg (14-22lbs). Males tend to be slightly larger than females.

The spur-winged goose is Africa's largest species of waterfowl.


Spur-winged geese are omnivores. Most of their diet is vegetarian being made up of plant matter, grain, sedges, aquatic plants and fruit. Some animal prey such as fish or insects may also be consumed.

Grazing takes place close to the shore line.

These birds are able to ingest toxic beetles. These poisons are there absorbed in to their own flesh meaning they also become deadly to consume.

Spur-Winged Goose


Africa is the native home of the spur-winged goose. Here they can be found in Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Eswatini; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Uganda; Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The species is thought to have gone extinct in Egypt.


The spur-winged goose is found in shrubland, grassland and wetlands. They are often found near water and can make use of lakes, rivers, river deltas, marshes and flooded grasslands.

Humans have expanded their available habitat through the building of reservoirs, sewage works and water courses related to farms.

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Breeding takes place in the wet season which is variable across their range. During this period pairs are primarily solitary.

Nests are built in a tree cavity or in a tree within a nest which has been abandoned by another bird such as the African fish-eagle and social weaver. They have also been seen in the nest of arboreal termites. Nests may also be created by these birds on the ground in reeds or in an abandoned aardvark burrow. The nest is lined with down.

In to the nest 6-14 eggs are deposited which are colored cream. Incubation takes 30 to 35 days with almost all of the work undertaken by the female. The male may remain nearby to defend his family.

Soon after hatching the young are led to the water by their parents to swim for the first time.


Spur-winged geese are highly social. They travel around in groups of up to 50 individuals.

Flocks most often fly at dawn or dusk. When in flight they will travel in a V-shaped formation.

During the dry season these birds will undertake a molt. In this period they congregate in a large group. For this molt which lasts around 50 days they are unable to fly. Males typically begin this molt before the females.

These birds are considered partially migratory and they will move seasonally to find water. During these flights they may cover distances of several hundred kilometers.

During winter they will spend the day resting and feed in the early morning or at night. They will perch in a tree to roost. Each day they undertake a flight between their nesting and roosting sites.

On the forewing is the spur from which their name is derived. This is used in aggressive battles with other waterfowl especially during the breeding season.

Males vocalize with a squeaking whistle while females tend to remain silent.

Spur-Winged Goose

Predators and Threats

At present populations of the spur-winged goose continue to increase.

Some threats to this species do still exist including hunting. They are traded for use in traditional medicines in parts of their range.

Quick facts

Despite their name the spur-winged goose is not actually a goose instead being a species of perching duck.

Spur-Winged Goose

Photo Credits


Derek Keats from Johannesburg, South Africa, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/), CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Dominic Sherony, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Alderton, D. and Barrett, P., 2019. The complete illustrated encyclopedia of birds of the world. Lorenz Books.

BirdLife International. 2016. Plectropterus gambensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22680057A92840685. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22680057A92840685.en. Downloaded on 24 July 2021.

Resourcelibrary.clemetzoo.com. 2021. Animal Details. [online] Available at: <https://resourcelibrary.clemetzoo.com/Animal/185> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

British Waterfowl. 2021. Spur-Winged Goose. [online] Available at: <https://www.waterfowl.org.uk/wildfowl/true-ducks/spur-winged-goose/> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

OneKindPlanet. 2021. Amazing Facts about the Spur-Winged-Goose | OneKindPlanet Education. [online] Available at: <https://onekindplanet.org/animal/spur-winged-goose/> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

Slim-bridge.co.uk. 2021. IDENTIFY SPUR-WINGED GOOSE - WWT SLIMBRIDGE. [online] Available at: <http://www.slim-bridge.co.uk/spurwinged%20goose.html> [Accessed 25 July 2021].

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