Sunday, 6 April 2008

Magpie geese

Magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) were once a fixture on swamps and lakes in southern Victoria. In the 1850s, they were so abundant that they were harvested for sale in Melbourne. Within a few decades, the numbers had declined so drastically that magpie geese had all but disappeared from the state.

Hunting had a major impact on the geese. Drainage of swamps for agriculture, drought, poisoning and fox predation also took their toll.

Now, the geese are slowly re-establishing in Victoria. Serendip Sanctuary started a captive breeding program in the 1960s using birds collected in northern Australia. Offspring were sent to locations in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, where they set up house with varying success. The program has finished now. At Serendip, which has permanent water and is fox free, the colony has done well. On some days, it's difficult to walk anywhere without stepping in goose poop — an unconventional but very useful measure of accomplishment.

(I blogged about magpie geese and their systematic position in this earlier post.)


Nye, E.R., Dickman, C.R. & Kingsford, R.T. (2007). A wild goose chase – temporal and spatial variation in the distribution of the Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) in Australia. Emu 107: 28 – 37.



It reminds me of a vulture's head.

Boobook said...

Hi Snail
Great photos. You must be loving your new camera - probably don't want to let it out of sight. Like my daughter who wanted to wear her new shoes to bed?

Snail said...

Aydin, they are a bit odd-looking! I wonder if the skin is bare to avoid getting feathers clogged up with mud when the birds are grubbing around for food?

Boobook, I'm really having fun. Unfortunately, work keeps getting in the way --- otherwise I'd be out taking photos every day!

Anonymous said...

Love those flying images of the geese - remind me of the old ceramic ducks flying up the wall! Someone should do an updated version with Magpie Geese - they'd also make some lovely linoprint designs - black and white...

Snail said...

They are also marvellously sculptural --- especially those wonderful faces. Could you imagine a life-size bronze?