The Egyptian Goose in Florida
Native to tropical Africa, the Egyptian Goose was considered sacred in ancient Egyptian culture, where it was domesticated and figured prominently in historic Egyptian artwork including murals, bas-relief carvings, sculptures, and papyrus scrolls. More recently, in the early 1990s, Egyptian Geese were introduced into Florida when individuals escaped from private bird fancier’s collections, perhaps from hurricane-damaged enclosures, or through intentional releases.
The bird’s population has exploded and is still growing not just in Florida, but also in Texas and western Europe. Egyptian Geese have become such a common site in parts of the Sunshine State, they have even eclipsed the ubiquitous domestic Muscovy Duck in some areas.
The Appearance of a Florida Egyptian Goose
Despite its common name and rather large size and tall stature, the Egyptian Goose is more accurately a large duck, closely related to the Old World shelducks. Smaller than most barnyard geese but significantly larger than our native Mottled Ducks, with long necks and legs and weighing between 3 – 5 pounds, Egyptian Geese are rather goose-like in proportion.
Most of the bird’s plumage is light taupe punctuated by a dark chocolate brown mask and chest smudge. The tail and primary flight feathers are black, while the speculum (the secondary flight feathers) are a deep iridescent forest green, accented by rust-colored tertials. The coverts and underwing lining are bright, blazing white, diagnostic in flight, even from a great distance. The legs and bill are blush pink and the irises are yellow.
What is the Diet of an Egyptian Goose?
Egyptian Geese obtain a large portion of their diet by grazing on land but they may also be seen dabbling for aquatic plants, insects, amphipods, small fish, and other small creatures in water, swimming buoyantly with their rears held high. With an abundant, readily available food source and given the birds’ adaptable nature and prolific reproductive habits is resulting in a boom in the bird’s Florida population. This success in introduced settings is causing Egyptian Geese to become a nuisance at golf courses, parks and communities where they foul walkways with their abundant droppings.
Feeding Egyptian Geese bread offers the birds little in the way of nutrition but such foodstuffs also pass rapidly through the birds’ digestive tracts, resulting in heavily soiled paths, lawns, and waterways. Residents are advised to not further encourage the wayward birds with well-meant but unnecessary feeding.
What Is the Habitat of an Egyptian Goose?
The Egyptian Goose favors a variety of open wetland habitats near grassy areas for grazing. In its native Africa, the Egyptian Goose inhabits open riparian floodplains. Transplanted to Florida, the birds frequent the grassy fairways, greens, and lawns of golf courses, parks, and residential communities, often where they can solicit handouts from residents and park patrons.
How Long Do Egyptian Geese live?
Fully mature at two years of age, Egyptian Geese can survive upwards of 15 years in the wild. Captive birds have been recorded exceeding 25 years in captivity. Life in modern-day Florida is fairly cushy for Egyptian Geese, hence the exponential population explosion. Some mortality is caused by traffic strikes in urban areas. Eggs and young chicks are consumed by a variety of predators including Northern Raccoons and Fish Crows, though the adults are usually quite protective of the nest and young. Some predation of adult Egyptian Geese occurs from Bobcats, Coyotes, American Alligators, and domestic dogs.
What Are the Mating Habits of Egyptian Geese?
There is little difference in the genders to the human eye, though male Egyptian Geese are usually slightly larger and bulkier than females. Egyptian Geese are monogamous and, like many species of large waterfowl, mate for life. Florida nests are often located on the ground near a body of water and may be deep, substantial, plush down-lined nests secreted amongst tall grass or completely out in the open, little more than a depression in the soil.
Some birds will occasionally nest on elevated ledges, high in trees in the old nests of herons or other large birds, in large tree cavities, and in broken-off stumps. The rather large, thick-shelled eggs are off-white to light grayish in color and females may lay as many as seven eggs, though clutches can exceed 13 eggs or more if multiple females egg-dump and lay in the same nest. Both parents share incubation duties and the eggs hatch approximately 70 days after laying. The precocial chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and often stay with the parents until the next nesting cycle.
Egyptian Goose Population
The Egyptian Goose population Florida is booming and expanding and the birds have become ubiquitous in urban and suburban settings throughout the state, with the largest populations in the southeastern part of the peninsula.
Also established as an exotic species in Texas and in western Europe, the bird is gaining ground in these transplanted locales. In its native sub-Saharan Africa, the bird has had to deal with some habitat loss but its native range and population are still considered stable. Elsewhere, the bird’s adaptability and fecundity is making it a rapidly-spreading avian pest