Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Egyptian Geese in New Jersey

The Atlantic City Press noticed that there is a population of feral Egyptian Geese roaming the state of New Jersey. This species is a native of Africa, with introduced populations in Europe. So how did a free-flying population end up here? It may be by accident.

Egyptian geese did cause the birding community to wonder what was going on when they began turning up regularly across the state more than a decade ago. Could a flock somehow have been blown here from Africa by a storm?

Then one day, in September 1996, a bird watcher at Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson Township, Monmouth County, noticed a flock of more than 50 Egyptian geese there - without identifying leg bands. More important, they were flying, which meant their flight feathers weren't trimmed to keep them captive at the park.

Now it is assumed that the Egyptian geese in the state, wherever they turn up, probably came from the large, uncontrolled flock at Great Adventure.
California and Pennsylvania also have free-roaming Egyptian Geese. As the article mentions, Egyptian Geese have bred several times over the past several years in central New Jersey along the Raritan River. I have seen them several times at my local park, including the pair in the picture above, taken in November 2007. In summer the adults have been accompanied by goslings. I am not sure what their survival rate may be, or where the young birds go once (if?) they reach maturity.

Egyptian Geese always look a little out of place along the Raritan, as they are not closely related to our native geese. Instead, they are the only extant representatives of the genus, Alopochen, ranked among the shelduck subfamily rather than among the typical geese.

Will the Egyptian Goose become the next Monk Parakeet and secure a place on New Jersey's state list? Time will tell.