Animals

Magpie Goose

The magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata), also known as the pied goose, is the sole member of the family Anseranatidae, which belongs to the family of water birds known as Anseriformes.

Magpie geese are not true geese.

A magpie goose usually weighs between about 4 ½ and 6 ½ pounds and is around 2 ½ to 3 feet long from the tip of its beak to the end of its tail.

The magpie goose has black and white feathers - like a magpie - bare red skin on its face, and a small orange beak (bill) that ends in a hook. It has a round knob on its forehead. This knob is larger in males than in females. The knob grows in size as the magpie goose grows.

Magpie geese, photo by Glen FergusThe legs of a magpie goose are long and orange-colored.

The magpie goose has strong claws. Its feet are only partially webbed.

Magpie geese live in open, shallow wetlands in northern Australia and southern New Guinea.

They obtain food both in the water and on land. Their diet consists of plants and small invertebrates. They graze on grasses and wild rice and use their hooked bills to dig up the roots and rhizomes (underground horizontal stems) of aquatic plants.

Sometimes magpie geese eat crops. Some farmers consider them pests.

Magpie geese breed in colonies.

They breed when water levels are high, so that there is a great deal of wild rice seed available to eat.

A male magpie goose will often mate with two females. The male builds a floating nest that consists of an unlined cup, which is placed on top of a platform of reeds that floats in the water.

Both females lay their eggs in this nest. Each female generally lays between five and eight white eggs.

All three parents feed the goslings. Magpie geese are the only Anseriformes that are known to feed their young.

Outside of breeding season, magpie geese gather in flocks that can contain as many as a thousand birds.