Magpie goose

The magpie goose is protected in the Northern Territory (NT).

You need a permit to hunt magpie geese.

The magpie goose is a large waterbird that grows up to 90cm.

The adult has black and white feathers, a long neck and a cranial knob that is smaller on females.

They have orange legs with partly webbed feet and a red beak with a white hook on the end.

Younger birds have the same markings, but don't have the knob on their head. Their feathers are grey to brown.

The magpie goose is well known for their nasal 'honk' call.

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Magpie geese fly large distances, especially in the wet season.

They are generally found close to wetlands and rivers.

Their diet is mainly plants, though young geese will also eat invertebrates.

Magpie geese usually breed late in the wet season.

There are more females than male geese, so males often have two females to breed with.

If there are two females, they will both lay eggs in the same nest and incubation is shared by all parents.

Major potential threats to magpie geese include:

  • habitat removal
  • wetland degradation
  • climate change leading to saltwater intrusion in freshwater wetlands and rivers
  • erosion and degradation caused by introduced animals such as:
    • pigs
    • cattle
    • swamp buffalo
  • increase of wetland weeds such as mimosa pigra
  • hunting if it is not managed sustainably.

Geese are also threatened by lead shot poisoning.

Lead shotgun pellets build up heavy metal in the water and in animals that live in those waters. Magpie geese use the pellets to grind their food.

If you're hunting, you should use non-toxic shotgun pellets.

You also need a permit to hunt magpie geese.

Magpie geese can be a pest to crops as they can eat seeds, fruits and young plants.

They can also damage plants by trampling them.

To help conserve the magpie goose in the NT, the NT Government is aiming to:

  • keep healthy populations of the magpie goose
  • promote long-term protection of the wetland habitats
  • use magpie geese sustainably
  • review and update management of magpie geese.

To find a copy of the management program and annual aerial surveys for magpie goose, go to the Department and Environment, Parks and Water Security website.

Last updated: 06 October 2020

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