Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Anseranatidae - Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata ©Dick Daniels Website

Anseranatidae have just one extant species, the magpie goose (Anseranas semipalmata). It is a resident breeder in northern Australia and a vagrant to southern New Guinea. The species was once also widespread in southern Australia, but disappeared from there largely due to the drainage of the wetlands where the birds once bred.

Magpie geese are unmistakable birds with their black and white plumage and yellowish legs. The feet are only partially webbed, and the magpie goose feeds on vegetable matter in the water, as well as on land. Males are larger than females. Unlike true geese, their moult is gradual, so no flightless period results. Their voice is a loud honking.

It is found in a variety of open wetland areas such as floodplains and swamps. It is fairly sedentary apart from some movement during the dry season. They are colonial breeders and are gregarious outside of the breeding season when they can form large and noisy flocks of up to a few thousand individuals. Its nest is on the ground, and a typical clutch is 5-14 eggs. Some males mate with two females, all of which raise the young, unlike some other polygamous birds. This may be beneficial when predation of young is high as chicks raised by trios are more likely to survive.

This species is plentiful across its range, although this is significantly reduced in comparison to the range at time of European settlement. The range once extended as far south as the Coorong and the wetlands of the southeast of South Australia and Western Victoria. For Australia as a whole, it is not threatened and has a controlled hunting season when numbers are large.

The Anseranatidae is a familly of one - the Magpie Goose of Australasia - Anseranas semipalmata.

Family Links

Magpie Geese Anseranatidae

Family Account

Anseranatidae, the magpie-geese, is a biological family of waterbirds. The only living species, the magpie goose, is a resident breeder in northern Australia and in southern New Guinea.

Species Links

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

Species Account

The Magpie Goose has a black neck and head, with a characteristic knob on the crown (larger in males), which increases in size with age. The underparts are white, with contrasting black edges on the underwing. The bill, legs and feet are orange. The Magpie Goose differs from most waterfowl in having strongly clawed toes that are webbed only on their basal halves (i.e. only partly webbed). Females are slightly smaller than males.

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

Species Account

The Magpie Goose, Anseranas semipalmata, is a waterbird species found in coastal northern Australia and savannah in southern New Guinea…

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

BirdLife Species Account

This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation)…

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

HBW Species Account

Image, sonogram etc.

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

Species Account

The Magpie Goose - Anseranas semipalmata - is a large black and white pied goose; males are 75 to 99 centimetres in length, females 70 to 80 centimetres. Wingspan reaches 1.5 to 1.6 metres.

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 1

Useful Reading


An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World. by Steve Madge & Hilary Burn - Helm 1992 Out of Print

ISBN: 0713636475

Buy this book from NHBS.com