Wednesday, April 4, 2012

One of the World's Rarest Geese (the Sheep Bird)

'Enjoyed views of a cooperative pair of Cape Barren Geese at Swan Lake, Phillip Island, recently. These birds are now referred to as sheep birds in our family (long story, but suffice to say there is a similarity when a mob is grazing in the paddocks).

Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae)
Swan Lake, Phillip Island, 25 March 2012

Grazing. (the foot caught my eye - ouch! see below)

Of interest:

These birds were felt to be at risk of extinction in the 1950s - apparently down to around 1000 birds at one stage. Various sources indicate they are still one of the world's rarest geese.

Locally their numbers have increased dramatically after:

  1. shooting was banned on their Bass Strait breeding islands
  2. birds were successfully released on the mainland (and Phillip Island)
  3. the birds became accustomed to grazing on pastoral land

For those who receive the quarterly publication Australian Birdlife there is an excellent article on Page 34 of the March 2012 edition titled The Wild Goose Chasers (there is a memorable photo of the late Graham Pizzey atop a granite outcrop of a Bass Strait Island).

We call them sheep birds but they are also known more commonly as the Pig bird!

Now commonplace on Phillip Island I was still surprised when three turned up on Silverleaves beach. I have since read that the Cape Barren Goose is able to drink salty water (hence its ability to survive on small Bass Strait islands).

"Why would you bring us here, Reg?"
Silverleaves Beach, Phillip Island, 13 April 2009
Fishers Wetland, Phillip Island

The series below shows two birds dealing aggressively with a third at (Churchill Island, January 2011).



  1. Hi Pete,
    Nice work on the CBG's! They are great birds to watch and PIs is a certainly a haven for them.
    Cheers, Ian

  2. lovely series Pete; liked the crop of its foot too. The in flight photograph was my fave'

  3. Fantastic!
    I didn't even know they existed!
    A very interesting article and great pics to go along!
    Congratulations Pete!