Spur-winged Goose

Scientific Name
Plectropterus gambensis
Conservation Status
Least Concern (LC)

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Wikipedia Article

The Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis) is a large bird in the family Anatidae, related to the geese and the shelducks, but distinct from both of these in a number of anatomical features, and therefore treated in its own subfamily, the Plectropterinae. It occurs in wetlands throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Adults are long and weigh on average , rarely up to , with males noticeably larger than the females. The wingspan can range from . On average, the weight of males is around and the weight of females is around . Among standard measurements, the wing chord is , the bill is and the tarsus is . They are the largest African waterfowl and are, on average, the world's largest wild "goose". They are mainly black, with a white face and large white wing patches. The long legs are flesh-coloured. The nominate race P. g. gambensis has extensive white on the belly and flanks, but the smaller-bodied subspecies P. g. niger, which occurs south of the Zambezi River, has only a small white belly patch. From a distance, P. g. niger can appear to be all black. The male differs from the female, not only in size, but also in having a larger red facial patch extending back from the red bill, and a knob at the base of the upper mandible. This is generally a quiet species. Typicalky, only males make a call, which consists of a soft bubbling cherwit when taking wing or alarmed. During breeding displays or in instances of alarm, both sexes may utter other inconspicuous calls.
This species often occurs in open grasslands with lakes, seasonal pools, rivers, swamps and river deltas. Large inland rivers and lakes are perhaps most commonly inhabited, with saline lakes and upland areas generally being avoided, although the species can occur to an elevation of in eastern Africa. It is also abscent from arid zones.
The Spur-winged Goose is gregarious, generally meeting in small flocks that contain up to 50 birds. They occur around various African rivers, lakes and swamps. Varied sites may be used for post-breeding moulting, in which case large numbers of the geese may congregate. This common species feeds by grazing, but spends the middle part of the day resting by water. Its diet consist predominantly of plant matter such as the vegetative parts and seeds of grasses, sedges and aquatic plants, agricultural grains, fruit (e.g. figs) and tuberous crops, although it may occasionally supplement the diet with small fish or insects. Dispersal may occur in pursuit of feeding opportunities outside of the breeding season. The breeding season for Spur-winged Geese is variable across the range. In the north, breeding generally occurs from August to December, in eastern Africa from January to June and in southern Africa from August to May. This species is highly aggressive to other waterfowl (including conspecifics) during the breeding season. At this time of the year, the geese may violent put the spur on the bend of the wings to use in conflicts with other birds. The large nest is usually concealed in vegetation near water, but tree holes, cavities in rocks, old Hamerkop, African Fish Eagle or Social Weaver nests and even the top of a termite mounds and a aadvark burrow have been used as nests. When choosing a tree-nest site, they will generally select a nest located close to the ground at between high in trees high. Generally, they prefer quiet, undisturbed stretches of riverbank and wetlands for nest sites.
Generally speaking, the Spur-winged Goose is a common bird of African wetlands. Perhaps the main threat to the species is development and destruction of wetland habitats and unregulated hunting. A counting survey of the population in western Africa wetlands from Senegal to Chad in early 1977 produced a count of 10,000 geese, mostly being found in the Niger basin. This geese is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.