Cape Barren Goose

Cereopsis novaehollandiae


The Cape Barren Goose is one of the world’s rarest geese. These birds are found on islands off the southern coast of Australia, parts of southern mainland Australia and Tasmania. Cereopsis means wax-like and refers to the waxy yellow-green beak cover. The Cape Barren Goose is about the size of a regular goose, however with many obvious appearance differences. These are bulky geese and their almost uniformly grey plumage, bearing rounded black spots, is unique. The tail and flight feathers are blackish and the legs are orange. The short, decurved black bill and green cere (the area around the nostrils at the base of the bill) gives it a very peculiar expression. The Cape Barren Goose is 75-100 cm long, and has a 450-490 cm wingspan; males are somewhat larger than females. Cape Barren geese were once thought to be the immature phase of the native black swan. They were hunted for food almost to extinction last century but through protection and increasing feeding areas the numbers have risen rapidly.


The breeding season for the Cape Barren goose is from May to September and the female lays four to seven creamy white eggs. The nest is constructed of grasses and plant matter and is beautifully lined with soft down feathers. The chicks hatch after six weeks of incubation and are covered in black and white striped down feathers. During the breeding season, these geese can be extremely aggressive and will have no hesitation in chasing intruders including foxes, dogs and even humans. The breeding areas are grassy islands off the Australian coast, where this species nests on the ground in colonies.


This bird feeds by grazing and rarely swims. It is gregarious outside the breeding season, when it wanders more widely, forming small flocks. It bears captivity well, breeding in confinement. The Cape Barren goose is usually found in small flocks on offshore islands and coasts but may visit pasture further inland in great numbers.


They are grazing birds, and eat mostly tussock grass and spear grass along the shores of which they live, as well as clover, herbs and their seeds.