Magpie Goose

The Hunter Valley Wetlands were hot, humid, mossie-ridden and beautiful, and I’d love to go back and explore the area more thoroughly.

 

Magpie Goose - Kim WormaldMagpie Goose

 

I sat on a bank for an hour watching the Magpie Goose, above, preen and rest and then it stretched just as I was checking the histogram. So, of course I needed to sit there for another 40 minutes hoping that it would stretch again.

Magpie Geese are large birds, about 70-90cm in size with females being slightly smaller than males.  Both genders have a characteristic bump on top of their heads, which is slightly smaller in females. They gather in massive flocks of several thousand birds to feed on aquatic vegetation . They differ from most other waterbirds as their feet are strongly clawed and only partly webbed, as can be seen in the image above.

 

Magpie Goose - Kim Wormald 2
Magpie Goose

 

It’s difficult to believe that waterbirds can swim on this sea of water-weed. Azolla is a native, aquatic fern that grows in still, or virtually still, waters. It is a remarkable plant that can double its mass in less than one week if the temperature, pH and nutrient levels are consistently good. Its leaves are small and it roots dangle about 40cm into the water. Waterbirds, fish and a range of invertebrates feed on Azolla and, by limiting the amount of sunlight that penetrates the water, it effectively suppresses the development of algal blooms. Azolla can form mats over water than are dense enough to prevent mosquitoes from breeding; I can’t imagine how many mossies there’d have been without it.

Happy birding, Kim

 

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