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A photo of a Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps)
Ruddy-headed Goose

Ruddy-headed Goose

Chloephaga rubidiceps

The Ruddy-headed Goose, with its scientific name Chloephaga rubidiceps, is a medium-sized waterfowl that presents a striking appearance. Both sexes exhibit similar plumage, characterized by red-brown heads and necks, a back adorned with gray and buff feathers barred with brown, and a belly of a warm cinnamon hue. The tail is a stark black, while the wings display a gray topside and a gray, black, and white underside. The bill is a deep black, and the legs and feet are a vibrant orange with black markings. Adult males typically weigh between 1.65 to 2.02 kilograms, while females are slightly lighter, ranging from 1.20 to 1.50 kilograms. The species measures from 45 to 52.5 centimeters in length.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Ruddy-headed Goose, look for the distinctive red-brown head and neck, the barred gray and buff back, and the cinnamon belly. The black tail and the coloration of the wings are also key features. The black bill and orange legs with black markings are additional identifiers. Juveniles resemble adults but have a duller overall appearance.

Habitat

This goose favors open landscapes, thriving in meadows, Pampas wetlands, pond borders, and coastal grasslands. It is a species that appreciates the vast expanses of the southern hemisphere's grassy plains.

Distribution

The Ruddy-headed Goose is native to the southern reaches of South America. It can be found in the eastern parts of Chilean and Argentinian Tierra del Fuego, extending north to Buenos Aires Province in Argentina, and is also a resident of the Falkland Islands.

Behaviour

On the Falkland Islands, these geese are year-round residents, though they do engage in local movements. In Tierra del Fuego and the southern mainland of Argentina, they are migratory, breeding in these southern areas and moving north to winter as far as Buenos Aires Province.

Song & calls

The vocal repertoire of the Ruddy-headed Goose includes distinct sounds for each sex. Males emit a short, whistled 'seep', while females produce a short, rasping quack. These calls can be heard across the open landscapes they inhabit.

Breeding

The breeding season for this species commences in September on the Falkland Islands and in mid-October on the mainland. Nests are typically hidden in long grass or among boulders, lined with down for comfort and insulation. Clutch sizes range from three to eight eggs, with males standing guard as females incubate the eggs over a period of approximately 30 days. The duration until the young are ready to fledge is not precisely known.

Diet and Feeding

The Ruddy-headed Goose is predominantly vegetarian, foraging mostly on land. Its diet consists of small berries, roots, leaves, stems, and seeds of grasses and sedges. In winter, it may also feed on young wheat and leftovers in harvested fields of maize, sunflower, and sorghum.

Conservation status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Ruddy-headed Goose as Least Concern. However, the population is believed to be in decline, with robust numbers in the Falklands but potentially only a few hundred individuals remaining in Tierra del Fuego and mainland South America. A significant factor in their decline has been predation by the introduced South American gray fox. Efforts are underway, including a Memorandum of Understanding negotiated under the Bonn Convention, to protect the migratory populations between Tierra del Fuego and the mainland.

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