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A photo of a Andean Goose (Chloephaga melanoptera)
Andean Goose

Andean Goose

Chloephaga melanoptera

The Andean goose (Chloephaga melanoptera) is a striking bird, with adults donning a predominantly white plumage contrasted by black wing primaries and tail feathers that exhibit a subtle greenish gloss. This species measures between 70 to 76 cm in length and weighs between 2.73 and 3.64 kg. Both sexes are similar in appearance, with coral red bills tipped with black and light red legs and feet. The young are downy and mostly white with blackish markings, while the older immatures resemble adults but are somewhat duller and have brownish gray scapulars.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Andean goose, look for the characteristic white head and body, the striped appearance of the shoulders due to the variation in scapular coloration, and the distinctive coral red bill. The black tail and wingtips with a greenish sheen are also key features.

Habitat

This species is typically found in open grasslands, bogs, and along the shores of lakes and lagoons, preferring the high-altitude environments above 3,000 meters, although in Chile, they may descend to lower elevations during heavy winter snow.

Distribution

The Andean goose graces the highlands from Peru's Ancash and Junín regions, through western Bolivia, down to the Ñuble Region of Chile, and into Argentina's Catamarca Province.

Behaviour

The Andean goose is a year-round resident within its range, exhibiting terrestrial habits but capable of flight when escaping danger. During breeding season, they become territorial and are known to lead their chicks into water to evade predators.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Andean goose is quite varied. Males produce a soft "huit-wit-wit," a low "kwwwwwu" grunt, a single-syllable threat whistle, and double-syllable sexual calls. Females, on the other hand, emit a louder, somewhat grating "kwa-kwak" and a hoarse "gack-gack."

Breeding

Breeding season commences in November, with these geese forming strong pair bonds that are believed to last year-round. They lay their eggs in simple scrapes among sparse vegetation or on bare ground, with clutch sizes ranging from five to ten eggs. The male stands guard during the female's incubation period, which lasts about 30 days.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Andean goose is not well-documented but appears to consist almost entirely of grasses. They are often observed in loose flocks, except during the breeding season.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Andean goose as Least Concern. It enjoys a vast range and, despite an unknown population size, is believed to be stable. The remoteness of its habitat offers protection from human interference, and it is not expected that the areas it frequents will undergo significant human-induced changes in the near future. However, it does face some persecution from sheep farmers who view it as a competitor for grazing.

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