The Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus) is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae, and is the only extant member of the genus Alopochen. mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data suggest that the relationships of Alopochen to Tadorna need further investigation (Sraml et al. 1996).
Two or three species of Alopochen from the Madagascar region have become extinct in the last 1000 years or so:
- Mauritian Shelduck, Alopochen mauritianus - Mauritius, late 1690s
- Malagasy Shelduck or Madagascar Shelduck, Alopochen sirabensis (may be subspecies of A. mauritianus) - Madagascar, prehistoric: see Late Quaternary prehistoric birds
- Réunion Shelduck or Kervazo's Egyptian Goose, Alopochen kervazoi - Réunion, c.1690s
This 63-73 cm long species breeds widely in Africa except in deserts and dense forests, and is locally abundant. They are found mostly in the Nile Valley and south of the Sahara. It has also been introduced elsewhere; Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany have self-sustaining feral populations, the former dating back to the 18th century, though only formally added to the British list in 1971. In Britain, it is found mainly in East Anglia, in parkland with lakes.
This is a largely terrestrial species, which will also perch readily on trees and buildings. It swims well, and in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck, hence the English name.
This species will nest in a large variety of situations, especially in holes in mature trees in parkland. Egyptian Geese usually pair for life.
The sexes of this striking species are identical in plumage, though the males average slightly larger. There is a fair amount of variation in plumage tone, with some birds greyer and others browner, but this is not sex or age related.
Egyptian geese typically eat seeds, leaves, grasses, and plant stems. Occasionally, they will eat locusts, worms, or other small animals.
Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork.
The Egyptian Goose is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Its generic name looks like Greek ?????? + ??? = "fox-goose", referring to the color of its back, but with a Greek language error: the linguistically correct form would have been *Alopecchen or *Alopecochen.