Anseranas – Magpie goose

Is it a duck? Is it a goose? Or is it a wonder child of both?

Unlike its cousins, the true geese and ducks, the Magpie Goose has certain characteristics that set it apart, both in behavior and morphology, which indicate its ancient lineage and provide a living link to the waterfowl of the past.

These birds are native to coastal regions and the wetlands of Australia and southern New Guinea, where they inhabit areas such as marshes, lagoons, floodplains, and tropical grasslands near rivers. Adapted to a more terrestrial life than many of their aquatic relatives, Magpie Geese are often found foraging on land, though they are never far from water due to their feeding and breeding requirements.

The Magpie Goose is a large bird with distinctive black and white plumage. The stark contrast between the black head, neck, upper breast, wings, rump, tail, and thighs, and the white underparts, mantel, and tail coverts, makes the adult Magpie Goose visually striking and easily identifiable. The species also possesses a prominent knob on the top of its head, which becomes more pronounced during the breeding season, especially in males.

The bird’s feet are only partially webbed, which reflects their adaptation to a semi-terrestrial lifestyle. This partial webbing allows them more mobility on land while still enabling them to swim effectively. They are known to walk around in shallow waters and grassy areas, where they feed on various plant materials, including bulbs, stems, leaves, and some invertebrates.

Magpie Geese have a complex social structure and are often seen in large flocks. These flocks may break down into smaller breeding groups during the breeding season. A unique aspect of their reproductive behavior is their tendency towards polygamy; a single male may form a breeding trio with two females, which is uncommon among waterfowl.

The seasonal rains influence their breeding season; they nest in colonies in reed beds or on floating platforms of vegetation, which are often built in response to the rising water levels. Both the male and his mates are involved in nesting duties, including constructing the nest and caring for the young.