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Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Geographic areas

(BirdLife International 2016, except as noted)

  • Australia
    • Mainly northern and eastern Australia
      • Northern Australian contains the major breeding and dry season refuge areas (Peter Bayliss, personal communication, 2018)
    • Southern Australia
      • Resident population west of Melbourne
      • Reintroduced to several locations in southern and southeastern Australia (Nye et al. 2007)
        • Nearly disappeared from southern regions
          • See “Historic distribution,” below
    • Reported outside usual range, especially during extended dry seasons in northern Australia (Carboneras and Kirwan 2017)
      • Tasmania (Johnsgard 1965; Frith 1967; Carboneras and Kirwan 2017)
  • Southern New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea)

Proximity to coast

  • Usually found within 300 km (186 mi) of the coast (Frith 1967; Carboneras and Kirwan 2017)
  • Occasionally occurs in more inland, arid regions (Frith and Davies 1961; Heron 1973; Kingsford and Porter 1993)
    • Flood events fill ephemeral lakes in central Australia (Kingsford and Porter 1993)
      • Breeding can occur if rainfall is sufficient (Frith 1967)
        • High gosling mortality when water disappears too early

Historic distribution

  • Abundant in southeastern Australia prior to European settlement (Nye et al. 2007; Olsen 2010)
    • Included breeding colonies (Frith 1967)
    • Locally extinct in this region by 1920, due to:
      • Wetland damage and drainage
      • Overhunting
    • Sightings on east coast in late 1970s and early 1980s
  • Historically, more abundant in northern than southeastern Australia (Nye et al. 2007)
  • Records as far south as Tasmania (Nye et al. 2007)
    • No evidence of breeding in Tasmania
  • Also see Frith and Davies (1961) for discussion



  • Often live near water (Frith 1967)
    • Spend relatively little time with body in water
      • Walk on exposed ground and over vegetation
      • Swim or wade in shallow water
  • Amount of suitable habitat varies greatly from year to year (Delaney et al. 2009)
    • Dependent on rainfall

Floodplains of tropical rivers

(Johnsgard 1978)

  • Marshes (Wilson 1997; Carboneras and Kirwan 2017)
    • Use mud habitat more often to grub for water chestnut bulbs when tall sedge vegetation dies back during dry conditions
  • Open water (Wilson 1997)
    • Permanent lagoons
    • Dams
  • Grasses (Carboneras and Kirwan 2017)
    • Forage in higher areas of a floodplain (Frith 1967; Johnsgard 1978)
  • Trees (e.g., tea tree [Melaleuca], Eucalyptus, mangroves) (Frith and Davies 1961; Marchant and Higgins 1990)
    • Used for roosting (Frith and Davies 1961)
    • Perch up high, often on slim branches (Delacour 1954)
  • Agricultural habitats
    • Pasture and rice fields (Marchant and Higgins [1990] citing Gowland [1988])
    • Used when food on irrigated lands better than in degraded habitats or during drought (Wilson 1997)
      • Prefer sites close to permanent water sources

Preferred habitat

  • Shallow, semi-permanent wetlands (Marchant and Higgins 1990; Carboneras and Kirwan 2017)
  • Areas with dense tall spike-rush (Eleocharis sphacelata), water chestnut (E. dulcis) and abundant grasses (Frith 1967)
    • Spike-rush and wild rice (Orzya) are this bird’s primary breeding habitat (Johnsgard 1978)

Magpie Goose Distribution

Magpie Goose distribution

The Magpie Goose occurs in Australia and southern New Guinea.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

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