Tag Archives: Egyptian Goose

A Big Birding Year: Part XXVI (A sacred century)

I have made a bit of a meal of getting there, but I have finally photographed my 100th species of bird this year in the UK. Huzzah!

The sacred pest
My century bird is appropriately special:

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)

The beautiful Egyptian Goose is a difficult bird for a birder to add to his list. This is because they are commonly held in bird collections (e.g., if you see one in St James’ Park, that’s nil points for you I’m afraid). But sometimes these birds escape and breed in the wild. These feral birds, originally from Africa, are now considered a pest in the UK. It is, or was, quite a different story on their native African continent. The birds were sacred to the ancient Egyptians, which – coupled with their distinctive eye markings – is the reason for their name.

The Egyptian Goose is one of the birds that straddles the hazy line between duck and goose (they are much smaller than most geese, but bigger than all ducks) and sit in glorious isolation in their own genus, Alopochen, which is ancient greek for ‘fox goose’ (in reference to the rufous or ‘foxy’ colour of its back).

The pair in the photograph were on a small pond in my local Wanstead Flats trying to get bread from people but largely being bullied by their bigger cousins, Canada Goose. London and East Anglia are two of the best places to see feral Egyptians outside of Africa as this BTO distribution map shows:

Thanks to the British Trust for Ornithology and the Bird Atlas

Thanks to the British Trust for Ornithology and the Bird Atlas

The century
So here they all are – all one hundred species of bird photographed this year in the UK – with the vast majority taken in London and the South East – from Magpie (the first bird I photographed this year) to Egyptian Goose (taken this December) and the other 98 in between:

100 birds

The year is not quite over, although with other ‘life’ getting quite busy in the run-up to Christmas (our house is still a building site!), it would not surprise me if my Egyptian friends were the last in my Big Year list for 2014. We shall see!

Thank you. It’s been emotional.