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Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact Sheet: Summary

Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact Sheet

Magpie Goose

Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Anseriformes — ducks, geese, swans, screamers, waterfowl

Family: Anseranatidae — Magpie Goose

Genus: Anseranas

Species: Anseranas semipalmata — Magpie Goose

Body Weight
Male: 1838–3195 g (~4.1–7.0 lb)
Female: 1405-2770 g (~3.1–6.1 lb)

Head-body Length
Male: 75–92 cm (30–36 in)
Female: 71–81 cm (28–32 in)

Male: 129–180 cm (50.8–70.9 in)
Female: 125–165 cm (49.2–65.0 in)

Black and white

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Australia and southern New Guinea

Floodplains of tropical rivers — marshes, open water, grasses, trees, and agricultural areas

IUCN Status
Least Concern (2016 assessment)

CITES Appendix
Not listed

Other Designations
Protected across Australia (federal and state/territory level)

Populations in the Wild
Approximately 3.5-5 million individuals; substantial fluctuations over short periods

Adept at walking and running due to partial webbing of feet. Slow wing beat during flight. Rarely swims.

Activity Cycle
Most active early morning and late afternoon. Move between roost and feeding sites.

Social Groups
Large flocks (thousands of individuals) comprised of many small breeding groups (1 male, 2-3 females, and offspring). Adults in breeding groups form long-lasting bonds.

Seeds, blades of grasses, corms of the tall sedge water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis). Goslings feed on seeds and invertebrates.

Water python, Torresian Crow, Whistling Kite, White-bellied Sea-eagle, common water rat, dingo, red fox, humans; possibly monitor lizards

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity
Not well known.
Females: 2 years of age
Males: 3-4 years of age

Incubation Period
23-30 days

Clutch Size
Variable, usually 5-11 eggs

Interclutch Interval
Eggs laid at 24-36 hour intervals over a period of 5-10 days

Weight at Hatching
56-92 g (about 2-3 oz)

Age at Fledging
Young able to fly at 11 weeks; stay with parents until next breeding season

Typical Life Expectancy
Wild populations: not reported
Managed care: no AZA estimates

Feature Facts

  • Large goose-like bird with contrasting black and white feathers
  • Evolutionarily unique; distinct from geese, ducks, and swans
  • Aggregates in large flocks, especially during dry season and breeding
  • Feet adapted for perching and walking on the ground and vegetation (unlike most waterfowl)
  • Hooked bill adapted to dig in mud for energy-dense sedge corms (during dry season when water level recedes)
  • Deep call of adult male likely used to defend territory and attract mates
  • Unique mating system—polygamous with group parental care
  • Parents gather food for young (unusual for waterfowl)
  • If first egg clutch is lost, able to re-nest with larger eggs (rare among birds)
  • Totemic animal and important food resource for Aboriginal peoples of Australia
  • Important species for hunting and ecotourism in Northern Territory of Australia
  • Once abundant in southeastern Australia—few Magpie Geese in this region today due to overhunting and loss of wetlands
  • In 1945, the San Diego Zoo became the first zoo to breed Magpie Geese

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.


© 2018 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.


How to cite: Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) Fact Sheet. c2018. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 10)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


We are grateful to Dr. Peter Bayliss for providing exceptional expert content review of this fact sheet.

Dr. Bayliss has been conducting research on the Magpie Goose and other coastal animals in Australia for over 40 years. He has extensively studied Magpie Geese in tropical northern Australia, conducting studies of abundance and distribution, breeding ecology, and the impacts of sea level rise and harvest practices.

Dr. Bayliss’ work as a natural resources manager focuses on marine, coastal, and freshwater ecosystems. He holds diverse experience and expertise in wildlife ecology, wetlands monitoring, aerial surveys and ecological modeling, fisheries, climate change analysis, and community participation (particularly Aboriginal communities) in natural resource management.

Dr. Bayliss is Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s premier national science institute.

Many thanks to Suzy Carey, Senior Bird Keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, for sharing her knowledge of Magpie Goose husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

Thank you to Dr. Zhonglou Sun of Anhui University, China, for providing clarification and additional references on the evolution of Anseriformes.

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