The well-known Egyptian Goose is a large (up to 3.5kg) duck that is probably South Africa’s most numerous waterfowl species.
Egyptian Geese inhabit almost every freshwater habitat, preferring rivers and waterbodies with open shorelines within easy reach of open fields for grazing. Their diet is mostly vegetarian, particularly including grasses and cultivated crops (which is why they are regarded as pests in some parts of their range).
Outside of the breeding season, which in South Africa mainly stretches from late winter to early summer, Egyptian Geese can be found in large flocks of hundreds, even thousands, especially so while moulting (which leaves them flightless for about a month). In the breeding season however pairs are more solitary in habit, viciously defending small territories around their nests and goslings from others of their kind. Nests, lined with plant material, are bult in a variety of places ranging from shallow depressions hidden on the ground in thick vegetation to burrows, the abandoned nests of other large birds, holes in trees, cliffs, caves and buildings. Pair bonds often last for life, and the females incubate the clutch of 5 to 11 eggs for about 4 weeks. Chicks hatched in elevated nests have to jump out after hatching, responding to the call of their mother below, and then follow the parents to water. Both parents take care of the young, which start flying at around 10 weeks of age.
The IUCN considers the Egyptian Goose as being of “Least Concern“, having a large (though likely decreasing) population distributed over most of Sub-Saharan Africa, with introduced or feral populations in many other parts of the world. Ironically they no longer occur on the lower Nile, where they were once considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians. They are however a very familiar sight all over South Africa.