Magpie Geese at Laura

The Magpie GooseAnseranas semipalmata… is widespread throughout coastal northern and eastern Australia. It can be seen from Fitzroy River, Western Australia, through northern Australia to Rockhampton, Queensland, and has been extending its range into coastal New South Wales to the Clarence River and further south.

Large black-and-white waterbird with bulbous lump on the top of its head and striking orange legs and feet. Often seen in very large, noisy flocks. Typically found in and around wetlands, pastures, and orchards across northern Australia. Also perches in trees and on branches. Soft honking calls given frequently, including in flight

Magpie Geese are widespread in northern Australia, where they may congregate in huge flocks, often comprising thousands of birds. They breed in large colonies late in the wet season, with the biggest recorded at Daly River in the Northern Territory — it covered 46 km2. 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. 

Large, noisy flocks of up to a few thousand birds congregate to feed on aquatic vegetation. The Magpie Goose is a specialized feeder with wild rice, Oryza, Paspalum, Panicum and spike-rush, Eleocharis, forming the bulk of its diet.

Its interesting that there is little research done into Magpie Geese. I wrote them up 10 years ago and since then there is still no information about its migratory patterns. The magpie geese are now at Laura, in northern Queensland. I last photographed them at Normanton and there is a definite migration pattern They come here in the wet season…

During the breeding season, Magpie Geese build nests in secluded places, usually close to wetlands. The nest is almost single-handedly constructed by the male. It usually consists of a simple unlined cup placed either in a floating platform of trampled reeds or built in tree-tops. Pairs of geese mate for life, but a male may have two females. Two females may occasionally use the same nest to lay the large, oval, off-white coloured eggs. All adults share incubation and care for the young.

Magpie goose has been eaten by Indigenous people in the Territory for thousands of years and is a staple for modern day hunters in the Top End. But the story of how it has been rolled out to some of the best restaurants in the country starts with the chance meeting of a Territory-born football star and a provedore of game meat. At a shed in a small Indigenous community an hour out of Darwin, Motlop and eight other Indigenous people have set up an operation to slaughter, pluck and gut the magpie geese, before sending them south on ice. It is a fairly efficient operation, taking about an hour to process 20 geese.

The only bottleneck is trapping enough geese to meet the demand. Health regulations mean they have to be trapped, not shot. So far, the geese are proving annoyingly smart.


Published by Ladymaggic

Artist, Traveller, Researcher and Writer, currently living in Australia where I photograph and share experiences and events as I travel. Travel photos and videos about many places in Australia​ and the world

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