DUCK GOOSE

Bird Watching (UK) - - Species -

In short, the Egyp­tian Geese looked en­tirely at home. This is at odds to most peo­ple’s opin­ion con­cern­ing the species in the UK. Ask al­most any birder you meet and the Egyp­tian Goose’s pres­ence is con­sid­ered to be in­con­gru­ous. It isn’t a “good fit”. We are gen­er­ally very sniffy about it, to the point where most bird­ers more or less ig­nore it. The vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple view the Egyp­tian Goose as some­thing of a new kid on the block. It was only ac­cepted on to the of­fi­cial Bri­tish List in the 1970s, by virtue of a self­sus­tain­ing pop­u­la­tion in East Anglia. In the 1990s, the pop­u­la­tion was es­ti­mated at about 400 birds. Only in the most re­cent decades has it shown any ap­petite for spread. The fact is, though, that the Egyp­tian Goose has been around for con­sid­er­ably longer than you might imag­ine. The first ref­er­ence to it in Bri­tain dates from as far back as 1678, dur­ing the de­bauch­ery and ex­cess of the reign of Charles II. This is not long af­ter the English Civil War. The bird was in­tro­duced into the King’s own col­lec­tion and, as was cus­tom­ary at the time, it be­came a fash­ion ac­ces­sory among the no­ble­men and thus was re­leased into many parts of the coun­try, in­clud­ing Devon and East Loth­ian, as well as

Nor­folk. The feet of Egyp­tian Geese, in other words, have trod the fields of Bri­tain ev­ery day in the last 330 or so years. Al­most from the off they be­gan to form free-fly­ing flocks, too, so the birds have been fly­ing in our airspace for al­most as long – and for longer than mankind has. Thus, Egyp­tian Geese in Bri­tain pre-date such in­tro­duced sta­ples as the Grey Squir­rel and of course, re­cent self-colonists such as Col­lared Doves. If they were build­ings, they would prob­a­bly be listed – so why aren’t they as birds? The rel­a­tive lack of in­ter­est in this species is par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing given that it is be­gin­ning to thrive here as never be­fore. Back in 1990 the pop­u­la­tion of the Egyp­tian Goose “seemed to have changed lit­tle over the last one and a half cen­turies,” ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey, and al­though there were hints that it was ex­pand­ing slowly, few would have pre­dicted its me­te­oric in­crease since then. Within a few years, it broke out of East Anglia and colonised large swathes of the London area; it is now a reg­u­lar sight in the East Mid­lands and the south. The ex­pan­sion has not been fully doc­u­mented yet, but the East Anglian pop­u­la­tion had reached a max­i­mum of 900 breed­ing pairs by 2007 and we could per­haps dou­ble or triple that to Look­ing more like a Shel­duck than a true goose, the Egyp­tian Goose is a cu­ri­ous bird

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