Yesterday morning, on a walk through the neighbourhood, I spotted a pair of Egyptian geese on a grassy verge up ahead, near the traffic circle of Woodside Drive and Francis Road. The grass was very tall and overgrown, so I could just recognise the two large birds with their striking colouring. As I approached slowly, not wanting to scare them, they emerged onto the pavement and headed down Francis Road.
The male was looking around in an alert kind of way, and the female was honking repeatedly and rather anxiously.
Suddenly, I realised why: they were surrounded by eight little black-and-white fluff-balls – their young!
I felt like kicking myself for not carrying my camera with me, but there was a slight chance that they would turn down my street. I walked alongside them, keeping a distance so as not to chase them. The male was walking a couple of metres ahead, turning from side to side, as though he was keeping an eye out for people, dogs and cars.
The female was limping quite heavily, and repeatedly emitting a loud honk, to keep her curious little goslings in check. They were trotting left and right, backwards and forwards, turning around, colliding with each other, pecking at each other, and scampering between their mother’s feet, almost tripping her up. With eight lively little ones, she clearly had her work cut out for her. I noticed that her honks varied in tone, becoming louder whenever one of her little fluffballs got too close to the road, or one was left too far behind.
Much to my alarm, the furious barking of a large dog lunging at a gate (he’d just seen them) frightened them off the safety of the pavement and onto the road among much honking and flapping of wings. I was trying to send them a telepathic message to cross to the large, grass-covered central traffic island that divided the two lanes of the road, and much relieved when they did quickly cross over to safety.
But then they left the traffic island – probably because the unmown grass was too high for the chicks! – and trotted along the tarred road once more. I saw a large 4×4 driving quickly around the traffic circle up ahead with East Way and Uitvlugt Road, and heading straight for them! Panic stations!
I stepped off the verge onto the road, getting ready to signal the 4×4 to slow down. Meanwhile, the mother goose was honking frantically, chivvying her little ones towards the edge of the road closest to the traffic island. Luckily, the driver saw us and slowed down to walking speed, driving veeeery slowly past the chicks with her hazards flashing. The car behind them slowed down too, and also did an evasive manoeuvre, with the driver staring in fascination at the two geese and their offspring.
As we were so close to home, I quickly ran home, grabbed the camera, and raced back to where I’d last seen the geese. They weren’t anywhere to be seen! How could they have covered so much ground in the meantime?
After running around the neighbouring streets, I suddenly heard the familiar honking of the female! Ahhh! There they were!
They were trotting down Uitvlugt Road, but did a u-turn and came back up the hill towards me. One of the grass verges there is very wide, with lots of trees at intervals. So that’s where I finally managed to snap some photographs of the happy family!
For some factual information about Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus), have a look at the Wikipedia article, and at the website of Biodiversity Explorer, where there is even a short soundclip of the honking sound they make.
Egyptian Geese can be found throughout Africa (esp. in the Nile Valley and in sub-Saharan Africa), except in deserts, dense forests and at higher altitudes. They have also been introduced in Great Britain (where they were declared a pest in 2009), the Netherlands and Germany. They live primarily on wetlands, on fields where crops are grown, and in urban areas. They eat plant matter (seeds, grasses, aquatic plants), but also some invertebrates (insects, worms, beetles).
The plumage of the male and the female are similar, but the male is larger, so you can usually see whether it’s a male. Also, the male mainly hisses, whereas the female mainly honks. They mate for life, and are highly territorial, defending their territory against rival birds, particularly during the mating, breeding and nesting season. They are fiercely protective of their young, who leave the nest about 6 hours after hatching (!). The chicks need up to 80 days before their wings are strong enough to be able to fly.
I wonder whether these little ones were enjoying their very first outing?