Anseranatidae – Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata ©Steven Brumby 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.

They are found in a variety of open wetland areas such as floodplains and swamps and are 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. They nest 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.

Species List

The Anseranatidae is a familly of one:

Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata

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
    POWERED BY MERLIN Listen +1 more audio recording 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.
  • 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

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map.
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 | Christopher Helm | 1992 | Hardback | 304 pages, 47 colour plates (depicting 700 birds), 155 distribution maps, line illustrations | ISBN: 9780713636475 Buy this book from

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