Ian’s Bird of the Week – Magpie Goose by Ian Montgomery
Here’s another large species characteristic of northern Australia, particular northern Queensland and the top-end of the Northern Territory, that had so far avoided the Bird of the Week net. It is found in quite large numbers around Townsville in wetland such as the Town Common, where the first photo was taken, and grazing in the stubble left after harvesting sugar cane. It’s a sedentary species and nests here in the wet season during the first four months of the year.
They have a pre-historic look about them and have some unusual features for a goose, or more correctly, goose-like bird. Not only the knobbed head, larger in males like the bird in the foreground in the first photo, but also the hooked beak. Both these features are more visible in the second photo. The third photo of the bird landing shows yet another oddity: the feet are only partially webbed and hence the specific name of semipalmata.
You’d be right in deducing that the Magpie Goose is only distantly related to other ducks and geese (family Anatidae) and is in fact the sole surviving member of a different lineage the family Anserantidae. These two families, along with another odd lineage the three species of Screamer in South America (Anhimidae), comprise the waterfowl order, the Anseriformes.
Magpie Geese were once common and widespread throughout northern, eastern and southeastern Australia but were hunted to extinction in the southeast and occur naturally now only from Broome in northern Western Australia to about Brisbane in southeast Queensland. Following reintroduction it is now getting re-established in some parts of New South Wales such as the Hunter Valley and of Victoria. The second photo was taken at Tower Hill in Western Victoria. It also occurs in southern PNG.
Recent Additions (to 14 species)
Australian (a different Pitta)
New World (it only looks like a Glossy Ibis)
Old World (just in case you dismiss starlings)
Other Wildlife (this one isn’t red)
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Geese are not mentioned by name in the Bible, but watching out for their eggs and hatchlings are mentioned:
If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young: But thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.
(Deuteronomy 22:6-7 KJV)