The Orinocco Goose

25th June 2010

Distribution: The Orinoco Goose can be found from northern to central South America, its wide range being estimated at roughlly 7,930,000 km2.

But though this species is widespread, it is, in fact, spottily distributed. It occurs in northern South America, east of the Andes, from eastern Colombia, central Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam and Guiana, southwards through Amazonian Brazil, Ecuador, extreme eastern Peru, northern, eastern and southeastern Bolivia and Paraguay to extreme northern Argentina .

Status: Although the Orinoco Goose population was once estimated at c.25,000-100,000 individuals it is now more likely to be 10,000-25,000, and in 2008, this species was classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List Category. The justification for this status is because the Orinoco Goose continues to undergo a moderately rapid population reduction.

Today, if this bird is still locally common in certain areas, clear declines have been noted elsewhere - notably in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. The Orinoco Goose is becoming increasingly localised over much of its range and is now scarce, except in remote or protected areas.

Colombia and Venezuela might still have some 5,000 to 10,000 individuals and Amazonian Brazil some 2,000 to 4,000, and the Orinoco Goose is considered relatively common in Peru and Bolivia (a few thousand pairs). Elsewhere, there are barely 20 or 30 of these geese in Ecuador, and they might be only vagrants in the Guianas, Paraguay and Argentina.

Habitat: This species prefers extensive, sparsely inhabited areas of fresh water lakes -especially with muddy or sandy shores-, lagoons, marshlands and seasonally flooded savannas. It also inhabits tropical forests, open woodlands, and covered banks of tropical rivers and damp clearings, normally at low altitudes of up to 500 m (though preferably less than 300 m). Occasionally, though, it has been recorded as high as 2,600 m.

General habits: The Orinoco Goose is generally found in couple or in small family groups and can form small groups of up to 20 individuals. Flocks of up to 250 have been observed, though, in the early 1980s, in Bolivia. It doesn't associate itself with other duck species.

This species is very territorial, especially in the breeding season. It perches readily on trees and and rarely swims or flies unless hard pressed. In flight it looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck, hence the English name.

Feeding habits: The Orinoco Goose feeds on aquatic plants, grasses, and seeds, as well as insects, worms, and crustaceans.

Nest: The Orinoco Goose usually nests in hollow trees, only occasionally on the ground.

Eggs: The female lays 6 to 10 eggs that she incubates for roughly 30 days.

Young: Juveniles's colours are duller than adults.

Call: The male has a high pitched whistling call, and the female cackles like the related Egyptian Goose.

Description: This duck measures 56 to 76 cm and weighs around 1.2 kg. It has a pale head and neck, chestnut flanks and mantle and blackish wings with a white speculum. The legs are red and the bill is black and pinkish. The sexes of this striking species are identical in plumage, though the males are larger

Did you know: The Orinoco Goose is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae, and is the only living member of the genus Neochen. Two fossil relatives have been described from Late Pleistocene sites: Neochen pugil and Neochen debilis of Brazil and Argentina, respectively.

A favourite hunting quarry, the Orinoco Goose has markedly declined in much of its range, with seizable populations only in a few remote or protected large-scale open areas with a low human population.
Though thecurrent decline is attributed mainly to heavy and continuing hunting pressure, availability of foraging habitat may also limit numbers locally.

The Orinoco Goose gets its name from the Orinoco River Basin, in Venezuela.

The Orinoco Goose is also called: Orinocogans [Dutch]; Orinokogans [German]; Ouette d'Orénoque [French]; Pato-Corredor [Portuguese]; Ganso del Orinoco, Ganso de monte, Pato carretero [Spanish]; Guanana [Guarani]