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.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 1

Useful Reading
  • Wildfowl

    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

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