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A photo of a Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
Cape Barren Goose

Cape Barren Goose

Cereopsis novaehollandiae

The Cape Barren goose, known scientifically as Cereopsis novaehollandiae and colloquially as the pig goose, is a large, predominantly terrestrial bird endemic to southern Australia. It is a unique species within the Anserinae subfamily, not closely related to other geese.

Identification Tips

Adults are robust, measuring 75–100 cm in length and weighing 3.7–5.2 kg, with males typically larger than females. Their plumage is primarily pale grey with a brownish hue. The head is small relative to the body, with a distinctive pale whitish patch on the forehead and crown. The bill is short, black, and triangular, featuring a prominent pale yellow-green cere. The breast and back feathers have pale edges, while the wings have brownish grey spots near the tips of the upperwing coverts and scapular feathers. Flight feathers are grey with black tips, and the tail feathers are black. Legs are pink with black feet.

Habitat

The Cape Barren goose thrives on grassy islands off the Australian coast, where it nests on the ground. It is well-adapted to captivity, breeding successfully in large paddocks.

Distribution

This species has a strong presence on various "Goose Islands" named by 19th-century explorers. It has also been introduced to areas near Christchurch, New Zealand, and Maria Island in 1968, where populations continue to exist.

Behaviour

The Cape Barren goose is a ground-dweller, grazing on a variety of grasses, sedges, legumes, herbs, and succulents. It is monogamous, often mating for life, and performs a 'triumph ceremony' post-mating. Breeding occurs in winter, with pairs establishing territories in autumn. They can drink salt and brackish water, enabling year-round island habitation.

Song & Calls

Males emit a rapid, high-pitched honking, especially during takeoff or flight. Both sexes produce low, pig-like grunts and hisses when alarmed. Goslings make whistling distress calls.

Breeding

Pairs may nest singly or in colonies, with nests made of vegetation and down. Females lay 4-5 creamy white eggs, incubated solely by the female for 34-37 days. Both parents care for the young.

Similar Species

There are no similar species that share the same range and distinct characteristics as the Cape Barren goose.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet includes Poa poiformis, Disphyma australe, Myoporum insulare, and species of Trifolium and Juncus.

Conservation Status

The Cape Barren goose is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a previous decline in numbers now reversed in the east due to adaptation to agricultural land.

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