One of the more striking waterbirds we see when we cruise around the Bass Strait Islands are the distinctive looking and territorial Cape Barren Geese (Cereopsis novaehollandiae). These make an interesting subject for our #13 Bird Photography Challenge.
What does it look like?
The Cape Barren goose is so named as it was first observed by European explorers on Cape Barren Island in Eastern Bass Strait. It is a very large, pale grey goose with a relatively small head. It has red eyes, a stubby triangular bill almost concealed by a very prominent greenish-yellow cere (skin above the bill). Its grey plumage bears rounded or sometimes heart shaped black spots, as shown in this photo. The tail and flight feathers are blackish and the legs are pink with black feet. The Cape Barren goose is 75-100cm long, weighs 3-7kgs and has a 150-190cm wingspan. The whole bird looks quite striking with its odd mix of colours.
Did you know?
The Cape Barren Goose was once thought to be a juvenile black swan. The geese were hunted for food and by the middle of the last century, their numbers were so low that they were considered close to extinction. Various initiatives have been taken which have increased their population, but they are still considered vulnerable and remain one of the world’s rarest geese.
How does it behave?
The Cape Barren Goose is a grazing bird, eating predominantly tussock grass, as well as spear grass and various herbs and succulents. It also eats pasture grasses, including barley and clover, and legumes. The Cape Barren Goose lays eggs in a nest in the tussocks of open grasslands which is is built by the male and lined with down. Each pair establishes a territory in autumn, prepares a nest and defends it noisily against other geese. This species is monogamous, and pairs bond for life. The young are brooded by both parents equally. During the breeding season, the geese can be extremely aggressive and will have no hesitation in chasing intruders including foxes, dogs and even humans!
The goose is usually quiet on the ground unless alarmed or in display. In flight it is far more vocal, with a high pitch trumpeted call.
Where is it found?
The Cape Barren Goose is found in Southern coastal regions of Australia and in particular offshore Islands. The ability to drink salty or brackish water allows a large number of geese to remain on the islands all year round.
Here is a selection of photos taken on Hogan and Deal Islands in Eastern Bass Strait and on Maria Island off the Tasmanian East coast, with a hand-held Canon 60D camera and a Tamron 18-270mm lens.
Click on any image to display in full screen.