02 March 2009

What's this duck?

The photos above were given to me by one of my volunteers at Green Cay, Jerry Finkle. He snapped these photos in his backyard in Boynton Beach, FL near the nature center. I would say that at least once a month or so someone comes into the nature center with photos of a similiar bird eagerly awaiting a positive identification from me. For those that don't know, this is an Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus). And if you come to South Florida there's a high chance you will be able to find one of these exotics flying around, especially in those golf course retirement communities.

Shortly after moving to Florida I started identifying this bird for people in photos but it took awhile before I saw my first live one. I was having a quick lunch during the Miami CBC count this year when a flock flew by the bay. Certainly this won't be my last sighting because this species is well on its way to becoming established. The Egyptian Goose was first reported in Florida in the early 1990s. D. Greg Braun reported in the Florida Field Naturalist 32(4):138-143, 2004 that the first documented succesful Egyptian Goose nest was found in Martin County, Florida in 2002.

The Egyptian Goose is found throughout Africa in the ± 30° south latitude range. Likewise, Florida makes the perfect home for this exotic since we're in the ± 30° north latitude range. In 2004 there were reports of this bird on the east coast of Florida in Martin, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties but it seems like they are expanding their range. The photos above are from Palm Beach County and I've heard that they are breeding on different housing community ponds near Green Cay. So next time you're down my way you should give those ducks a second look, they may not be Black-bellied Whistling Ducks afterall, they could be Egytpian Geese.

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