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While sounding like some disturbing hybrid mutation that swoops residents while making loud honking noises, the magpie goose is a species in its own right. In fact, it comes from a very old family, with one relative, Vegavis iaai, known to subsist approximately 67 million years ago.
However, much like other geese, the magpie goose does indeed utter a loud honking sound. And if you’re in any doubt you’ve spotted one, they also have a distinct black and white plumage and yellow legs. It also differs from other waterfowl of its kind in that it has strongly clawed toes that are only partially webbed.
You may see one of these honking flappers in and around the grounds of Thala, as they dwell in northern coastal and eastern areas within Australia. Favouring areas such as wetlands and swamps, they may only move territory during the dry season to areas of greater water. They’re also found in savannah areas in southern New Guinea.
Apart from its claws, its honk and its magpie colours, which it glaringly displays, the bird has several other distinguishing characteristics. Firstly, at no period in its upbringing is it flightless. Males are also slightly bigger than females, and outside of breeding season, the bird is rather gregarious, as often thousands of them congregate for a bit of boisterous honking, possibly to discuss the season’s success or celebrate the fact it’s over.
Also somewhat of a lush, the magpie goose is a specialised feeder, as its diet consists of wild rice, oryza, paspalum, panicum, and spike-rush. However, it will also feed on vegetable matter both in the water and on land.
When breeding, the magpie goose often works in trios, with one male impregnating two females, while all three rear the young (giving them greater chance of survival). The nest, which is prepared by the male, is a floating platform, or if on land it rests on the ground. Each clutch produced by the female contains anything from 5 to 14 eggs.