Friday, 30 January 2015

Mapleton Rarity

Over the latest school holidays I left my Mapleton home for a little vacation in and around Melbourne. By leaving I invited a rarity to visit my local patch - the Mapleton Lillyponds. The bird in question; a Cape Barren Goose. Vagrant? Escaped captive fowl? No one seems to know. But most can agree it is a beautiful bird and, to say the least, a surprising find for the Sunshine Coast.

While in Victoria I managed to see quite a few of these birds myself, in their normal haunts - Werribbee and Phillip Island. The latter site, in particular, is a stronghold for the spp.
Mapleton Cape Barren Goose, no leg rings present. Could it be a truly wild bird?  [photo by John Thompson]

Some info of the species from wikipedia;
It is a most peculiar goose of uncertain affiliations (Sraml et al. 1996). It may either belong into the "true geese" and swan subfamily Anserinae or into the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae as distinct tribe Cereopsini, or be separated, possibly including the prehistorically extinct flightless New Zealand geese of the genus Cnemiornis, in a distinct subfamily Cereopsinae. Indeed, the first bones of the New Zealand birds to be discovered were similar enough to those of the Cape Barren goose to erroneously refer to them as "New Zealand Cape Barren goose" ("Cereopsis" novaezeelandiae).

The smaller population of Cape Barren goose in Western Australia is described as a subspecies, Cereopsis novaehollandiae grisea, and named for the group of islands known as the Recherche Archipelago.

These are bulky geese and their almost uniformly grey plumage, bearing rounded black spots, is unique. The tail and flight feathers are blackish and the legs are pink with black feet. The short, decurved black bill and green cere gives it a very peculiar expression.

The Cape Barren goose is 75 to 100 cm long, weighs 3 to 7 kg and has a 150 to 190 cm wingspan; males are somewhat larger than females. This bird feeds by grazing and rarely swims.

Their ability to drink salt or brackish water allows numbers of geese to remain on offshore islands all year round. They are one of the rarest of the world's geese. It is gregarious outside the breeding season, when it wanders more widely, forming small flocks.

Range and habitat
A previous decline in numbers appears to have been reversed as birds in the east at least have adapted to feeding on agricultural land. The breeding areas are grassy islands off the Australian coast, where this species nests on the ground in colonies. It bears captivity well, quite readily breeding in confinement if large enough paddocks are provided.

In Australia, 19th-century explorers named a number of islands "Goose Island" due to the species' presence there.

In 1968, a small number of geese were introduced to Maria Island, Tasmania.     [Ken Cross]
Cape Barren Geese [K.Cross] Werribbee, Victoria 

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