February 2012 - Egyptian Geese

Egyptian goose, Bowthorpe - taken by Averyl Richards - October 2011 

Egyptian geese were first introduced into the UK from Africa as ornamental wildfowl about three centuries ago. Breeding populations became established in the lakes of various Norfolk estates e.g. Blickling and Holkham during Victorian times . Inevitably the birds then spread out from these estates to become established breeding feral populations . It is a surprising fact but according to The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Norfolk still holds more than 90% of the population, although the reason for the birds not spreading further in the U.K. is not clear.  According to the RSPB website there is in the region of 700 breeding adults.

These birds are commonly seen all year round around lakes, grassy parks and wetlands in Norfolk, including our own local rivers and lakes. The birds have pink legs, distinctive dark eye-patches, pale brown and grey under plumage and white wing patches when flying.  There is a fair amount of variation in the plumage tones. There is little difference between males and females in appearance, although the males may be slightly larger, but vocalisations differ, the males having a hoarser, subdued  'quack' when aroused. They are extremely territorial and will defend their territory against their own species particularly when breeding with noisy displays and aggression as they chase the other geese away. They are also very protective of their young with the female particularly vigilant and noisy.

Egyptian geese usually pair for life. The female may lay clutches of 8 to 9 eggs in a nest made from reeds, leaves and grass in a variety of locations including the hollows of trees. In 2010  one even built a nest on top of the thatched roof of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust's visitors centre overlooking Ranworth Broad! Both male and female take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch after about 4 weeks. Only 1 or 2 of the young will survive to adulthood as predation is high, with the chicks falling foul of such predators as crows, pike, foxes etc.

Egyptian geese are often seen perching in the top of trees, in the rivers or local lakes, or feeding on grasses, seeds and other vegetation in parklands around Bawburgh.  



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