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The lost and lonely

March 8, 2020

Twitchers (fanatical birdwatchers) lead a life of quiet desperation, always on the look-out for a ‘lifer’ – a bird species they have never seen before. This explains the phenomenon late last year when hundreds of bird-watchers flocked (pardon the pun) to the Werribee Treatment Plant after the reported sighting of a single Paradise Duck (a species rarely if ever seen in Australia) bobbing among the thousands of birds down there. Sometimes however that special bird comes to you.

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Susan who lives just west of Yea last week reported a Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) on her property and wanted to know if it was unusual in this area. This bird is neither a magpie nor a goose. The binomial name is derived from the Latin anser meaning goose, anas meaning duck, semi meaning half and palmatus meaning webbed – a half-webbed goose-duck, half-webbed referring to its feet.

Today Magpie Geese inhabit wetlands of northern Australia and southern New Guinea where they feed on water-based and land-based plant matter. Their range once extended this far south but due to systematic destruction of wetland habitas for agricultural purposes the bird has long disappeared from this landscape. Attempts have been made to re-introduce populations of Magpie Geese in the south – at Bool Lagoon near Narracorte, S.A. and in the Serendip Wetlands near Lara. The sighted bird could be a member of one of those populations, though still far from home.

So to answer the question, these days the appearance of a Magpie Goose around here is highly unusual. As Geoff our local bird guru said ‘it looks lost and lonely’. It was only around for a day. On the bright side, it may have been scoping out new territory for its mates – Yea Wetlands maybe?

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