Is it a goose? Does it come from Egypt?
Well, some interesting questions. I know that in South Africa (our home) there are a prevalence of these geese, often taking over swimming pools, golf courses, sports fields and large gardens. Here in Alexandria, Egypt, we have not seen much evidence of this beautiful bird, but as one travels down the Nile (or up the Nile) they seem to increase in numbers. So let’s acquaint ourselves with this creature:
Is it a goose? Apparently it is a goose-duck (or perhaps a duck-goose) or more correctly a “Shelduck”! Others say it is of the family that includes ducks, geese and swans: Antidae. The correct name is: Alopochen Aegyptiacus.
Does it come from Egypt? It is generally believed that this duck-goose has its origins in the Nile Valley. They are endemic to the Nile Valley and particularly massive in number South of the Sahara. These duck-geese were considered holy and sacred to the Ancient Egyptians, as it was believed these birds were messengers between heaven and earth, and they can be found in some of the artwork from Ancient times.
These duck-geese are known as “delightful and annoying”!
because of their vivid markings, which make a striking impression (especially in flight).
Some facts about an adult bird:
- Kgs: 1.1-3.5
- Length: 63-73 cm
- wingspan: 134-154 cm
The chestnut markings around the eye, and the collar make me wonder if this is not one of the reasons for the “Egyptian” name? Egyptians are famous (from ancient times) for adorning themselves with lavish amounts of kohl for the eyes and beautiful jewellery (necklaces). This stunningly decorated bird is worthy of the comparison.
They are semi-terrestrial birds. Although they look more comfortable and at ease when on the water, they are often seen in gardens, golf courses, sports fields. These ornamental wild fowls feed day and night, and will fly between grassy areas (where they seek out juicy grass as well as worms and small creatures) and water or marshy areas. But most annoying is their loud calls. Depending on their sex or how angry they are, they either have a loud honk, a harsh growl, or a hissing sound. These birds can live for up to 25 years, and will mate for life. During breeding season, the birds (who live in family groups) get very aggressive. A happy family that ate and flew together will suddenly have the father and mother turning on their offspring, trying to clear the way for a new generation of duck-goslings! I have seen them attack each other in mid-flight, bomb each other while perching on a neighbouring roof-top and flap around angrily chasing one another (in a rather ungainly war) across the grass, making a horrendous noise. As they have a major eating spree just after dawn (when they leave the area of their nests) and around sunset (when they return to the area close to their nests) this can make for a very noisy wake-up call, and disturb the beauty of the sunset, especially when all 9 of them are yelling at the same time!
The female will lay between 5-8 eggs, which take 28-30 days to hatch. Both parents will share the incubating of the eggs and the care of the young. Having recently seen a new brood of goslings, proudly walking down a road, with protective father at the front and anxious mother at the back: these little fluffy goslings were oh so cute! This new generation youngsters will begin flying at 11 weeks and once again the cycle of life will begin… again!
So next time you are south of the Sahara (their original home) have a close look for one of these beautiful birds.
BUT keep on your toes because if you get too close to their food or water they will attack you…