Bird Watching (UK) - - Species -

pas­ture, with enough scat­tered trees for nest­ing. By 1994, there were 1,340 breed­ing pairs and by 2010 there were 10,000, with an es­ti­mated win­ter pop­u­la­tion of 45,000 birds. Al­most the whole coun­try hosts Egyp­tian Geese and it has reached sat­u­ra­tion point. The bird’s em­pire now reaches other parts of Europe, too. It breeds in France, Bel­gium, Ger­many and Den­mark, with a to­tal pop­u­la­tion for the whole of Western Europe es­ti­mated at 26,000 pairs, in­clud­ing the Bri­tish birds. In­ci­den­tally, it has also colonised a few parts of Amer­ica, too, such as Florida, Texas and Cal­i­for­nia and, rather strangely, Arkansas. But hav­ing been in Bri­tain for cen­turies, and north­ern Europe for 50 years, why is it do­ing so well just now? No­body knows for cer­tain, al­though there are clues. In the early years it was known that breed­ing Egyp­tian Geese suf­fered very low lev­els of pro­duc­tiv­ity. They some­times nested too early in the year, in the mid­dle of win­ter, re­sult­ing in high mor­tal­ity of eggs and chicks, and few pairs pro­duced more than a sin­gle off­spring. Cold win­ters also killed off adults. How­ever, a study in 2010 showed that the Dutch pop­u­la­tion seems to have adapted to these snags. The birds have a breed­ing sea­son last­ing six months, and the on­set of in­cu­ba­tion is de­layed if the win­ter weather is se­vere. Hav­ing ad­justed for weather, the birds then go on to take ad­van­tage of the long days of sum­mer. In fact, in the Nether­lands at least, they are more pro­duc­tive than they are in Africa. Could the birds have caught on to this in Bri­tain at last? Or are the Dutch birds of bet­ter stock? Egyp­tian Geese are equally at home in a Bri­tish lake or an African wa­ter­hole Be­neath the ‘drab’ sur­face, there are hid­den colours, such as the iri­des­cent specu­lum in the wing SPECIES FACT­FILE


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