Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is it a Goose....or a Duck?

The African pygmy-goose is arguably the most beautiful waterfowl on the planet. Contrary to its name, the pygmy-goose is actually a duck, though it is named for its goose-like bill. Both males and females have rust-colored bodies with rich green wing feathers. However, male African pygmy-geese, like the one featured in our blog header, have a clearly defined head pattern with shades of green on the cap and neck, a stark white face that emphasizes their black eyes, and a bright yellow bill. Females, on the other hand, have a more "dirty" face, the white being darker with smudges of dark feathers and a bill that is a more muted yellow and black.

Considered the smallest of Africa’s waterfowl, these birds are rarely seen on land. Their short legs are better suited for swimming, though they can often be found perched on logs or branches, and frequently roost in trees. African pygmy-geese (Nettapus auritus) inhabit lakes and lagoons heavy with vegetation such as water lilies and other submerged aquatic plants on which they feed. They use their tapered bills for stripping the seeds and clipping the leaves, flowers and buds of water lilies and other aquatic plants.

Despite their size, pygmy-geese are incredibly strong and agile fliers, easily taking flight directly from the water’s surface. Their high-pitched whistles are distinct yet delicate, and are often uttered while flying.

They nest in tree hollows (sometimes as high as 60 feet!) and on your next visit to Sylvan Heights, you can see palm logs with hollows that have been placed around the African Aviary to encourage these birds to breed.

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