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< >  Nettapus auritus - African pygmy-goose (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Dwarf goose
Pygmy goose
Afrikanische Zwergglanzente (German)
Afrikanische Zwergente (German)
Anserelle naine (French)
Sarcelle pygmée d’Afrique (French)
Gansito Africano (Spanish)
Ganso pigmeo africano (Spanish)

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B6, B8, B19, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
B7, B11.33.w1, B29, B31, B94, B97,
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Perching Ducks and "geese" are generally happier maintained fully-flighted if possible, for example in an aviary for the smaller species, or under flight netting.
  • While the larger species in this group are hardy, the smaller species may be more delicate and require winter shelter. These species eat a high proportion of vegetable matter and appreciate a grazing area. Most of these species are hole-nesters.
  • Many of these species are sociable outside the breeding season, although Cairina moschata - Muscovy duck, Cairina scutulata - White-winged duck, Pteronetta hartlaubii - Hartlaub's duck and Plectropterus gambensis - Spur-winged goose can all be aggressive and require separate enclosures.

(B7, B11.33.w1, B94, D1)

  • Pygmy geese are delicate and breed extremely rarely in captivity. They may be best maintained fully-flighted in an aviary. A raised nest box should be provided. The normal laying period is May to June (B29); eggs laid July to September, New York (N1.90.w1). Ducklings apparently feed by straining small particles from the water. Feeding may be stimulated by rapidly moving fingers in a dish of water containing fine feed; this may be required for three weeks or more. Duckweed may also be useful to encourage feeding, but may itself be too large for young downies to eat. Supplemental tube feeding has been useful in downies during the initial rearing period (N1.90.w1).

(B7, B29, N1.90.w1)

Species-specific information:

  • African pygmy-geese are delicate and cold-sensitive, requiring protection and heat at night in winter. A sunny enclosure in summer, containing a well-vegetated pond, combined with a spacious heated tropical house in winter has been suggested (B31). Nutritious fine-size food, including small seeds such as millet, with additional duckweed and similar fine green food suggested.

Hybridisation with Anas sibilatrix - Chiloe wigeon reported, but no details available (B31).

(B7, B31, B97, D1).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: E 6.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 11-12 inches, 28-30cm (B3); 30-33cm (B1).
Adult weight General 260-285g (B1)
Male 285g (B3)
Female 260g (B3)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Deep yellow with black nail (B3, B6, B8, B25, B26)
Variations (If present) Female: grey-yellow (B3, B25).
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown-red (B3, B6, B25).
Variations(If present) Female: Brown (B25).
Juvenile Bill Dusky grey-yellow (B3, B6, B25)
Eyes (Iris) Brown (B25).

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Adult Male Dark grey/black (B6, B25, B26).
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Dark grey (B25)

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Adult Male Head and upper neck white, with metallic black crown and hindneck, oval patch of dark-bordered pea-green on either side of upper neck. Lower neck, breast and flanks bright chestnut, abdomen white. Upperparts, rump, tail and undertail coverts iridescent green/black. Wings dark green-black with large white area: tips of greater coverts and outer webs of secondaries.
Variations (If present) Female:- duller; head and neck mottled greyish-white with dark crest and hindneck and narrow dark eye-stripe. (B3, B6, B25, B26).

Eclipse:- Short time after breeding only. Similar to female. (B25)

Juvenile Similar to female, but paler buff-chestnut flanks and breast, more distinct eye-stripe (B1, B25, B26).

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts sooty with white markings on wings and sides, underparts and face white with dark eye-stripe and two spots on cheeks. (B6, B1, B8)
Bill: Grey (B6)
Feet: Grey (B6)

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Varies with locality, depending on wet season. Peak in summer for southerly birds, October to December in South Africa (B1, B8, B25, B26).
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

In tree-trunks or other cavities, sometimes quite high (e.g. 60 feet), nest of grass and leaves, sometimes with down lining (B1, B8, B26). Reportedly in vegetation on ground in swamps (B8).

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average  
Range 6-12 (B1); 5-9 usually, but up to 12 (B8).
Egg Description Ivory-white, may be olive-tinged initially. Size: 43x33mm, weight: 23g. (B3)

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About 23-24dd (B1); 23-26 days (B8).

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50-60 days (B1, B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Pluck vegetation and food from water surface while swimming, also dive.(B1, B25, B26)
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building In single pairs.
Incubation By female (B3).
Newly-hatched Tended by both parents (B8).


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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Form groups of 20-200 birds and much larger groups while moulting and during the dry season. (B8)
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Pair bonds strong and may last for more than one season (B8).

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Rest on semi-submerged branches and logs, roost in trees (B8, B25, B26)
Circadian Feeding peaks in early morning and in the evening (B8, B25)

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Natural Diet


Seeds and other parts of water-lilies are main food, also other aquatic plants, some aquatic insects, small fish. (B1, B26)

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Senegal to Ethiopia and southwards to South Africa, except south-western Africa; also Madagascar. (B1, B8, B19)

Occasional and Accidental




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Slow-flowing rivers, shallow lakes, swamps and marshes with abundant vegetation, particularly water-lilies. (B1, B8, B19, B25, B26)

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not globally threatened, fairly widespread and locally common, but declined across most of Madagascar (B1, B8).

CITES listing CITES III in Ghana (B1)
Red-data book listing --
Threats Destruction of aquatic vegetation by herbivorous fish in Zimbabwe (B8).

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Captive Populations

Not very common in collections (B8).

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