Magpie goose

The prime living example of an ancient fossil with only one species left to its name


One of the earliest offshoots of the waterbird group that includes ducks, geese, and swans. This species is indeed a biological curiosity, often referred to as a ‘living fossil’ due to its ancient lineage. The Magpie goose diverged from other waterfowl long before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, which occurred approximately 66 million years ago, a testament to its evolutionary resilience.

Magpie geese are indigenous to northern Australia and southern New Guinea, where they inhabit a variety of wetlands, including floodplains, swamps, and grasslands near water bodies. Their distribution, while localized, encompasses regions where they can access their preferred diet of aquatic vegetation, seeds, and small invertebrates. These areas also provide the necessary conditions for breeding, as Magpie geese are known to form nests on large, floating reed beds or in hidden locations amidst tall grasses.

In terms of appearance, the Magpie goose is distinctive and easily recognizable. They have a black and white plumage that bears a striking resemblance to the Eurasian magpie, hence their common name. The black plumage dominates the head, neck, and underparts, while the back and wings are primarily white. They possess long legs that are well-adapted to walking on the wet, marshy ground of their habitat. Their feet are only partially webbed, which is unusual for waterfowl but reflects their evolution and adaptation to a more terrestrial lifestyle.

One of the most notable physical characteristics of the Magpie goose is its bill. Unlike other waterfowl, the Magpie goose has a bill that is more elongated and hooked at the tip, which assists in foraging for food among vegetation. This bill structure is so distinctive that it sets the Magpie goose apart from all other waterfowl families, placing it in its own unique taxonomic family.


Population est.
Papua New Guinea

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No