Australian Bush Birds
Cape Barren Goose  -  Cereopsis novaehollandiae
cape barren goose
The Cape Barren Goose is a large bird (up to a metre tall when standing) which eats grass and other vegetation.
cape barren goose
The Cape Barren Goose resting on the ground emphasising the overall grey colour with darker spots and the greenish-yellow cere over the top of the bill.
map map The Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae) is a large bird; head is small for size of body. Grey plumage, deep pink legs, feet black; short, black bill, yellow 'cere' across top of bill. Eye is hazel/brown. Grows 75 to 90 centimetres in length. Male and female similar in appearance, females are slightly smaller. Goslings are boldly marked dark brown and light grey.

Lives on land, rarely enters the water, grazing on grass and other vegetation on coastal and island habitats. Gathers in small or large flocks in summer after breeding to feed, sometimes in large numbers, on pasture on offshore islands and on the nearby mainland.

Cape Barren Goose - page 2
Nasal salt glands secrete excess salt taken with food. Flies strongly with neck outstretched but needs a lumbering run to get airborne.

The Cape Barren Goose shares the Emu's unpredictability around motor vehicles and has an unfortunate habit of flying at a height of one to two metres along and across busy roads; an ideal height to hit, or be hit by, a motor vehicle.

head head
The Cape Barren Goose is mainly grey with a white or pale yellow stripe on the crown. Western Australian birds have a narrow white crown stripe (and yellow feet). The greenish cere can be clearly seen across the upper mandible in both photographs; the dark oval on the cere is a nostril.
Both sexes are usually quiet on the ground, unless alarmed or displaying, but in flight are very vocal.

Common within a limited range along the coast of South Australia east of the Eyre Peninsula, the Victorian coast and Tasmania, especially Bass Strait islands. A separate population, and different subspecies, lives on the south coast of Western Australia.

There are two subspecies. The subspecies in the Recherche Archipelago has yellow feet and a narrow white crown stripe. The other subspecies, found from the Eyre Peninsula to Bass Strait has pink feet and a broad white crown stripe.

Unique to Australia, Cape Barren Geese have been hunted and eaten since first seen by George Bass in 1797. Then a sealing industry developed in Bass Strait and many birds and their eggs were destroyed. They are now completely protected.

cape barren geese
Cape Barren Geese grazing in a paddock on Phillip Island, Victoria.
Cape Barren Goose - page 3
Breeds in pairs on offshore islands covered in tussock, grassland or scrub from the Furneaux Group (including Flinders Island) along the south coast of Australia to the Recherche Archipelago in Western Australia. Probably mates for life; breeding usually May to August. Males fight to establish and defend territory as breeding time approaches.

The nest is often built on the western side of islands off the south coast, sometimes hidden in tussock grass and rarely closer than 20 metres to another nest and often positioned to have a clear view of the surroundings, some are built up to six metres above the ground in bushes and tea tree.

The nest is a made, by male and female, of whatever material is available in the form of a shallow cup about 90 millimetres deep and lined with grey down which the female uses to cover the eggs when she leaves the nest.

One to seven (usually four or five) eggs are laid; white with a coarse lime layer over the shell, ellipsoidal, 73 to 92 by 44 to 59 millimetres. The female incubates the eggs alone for about 35 days; the male fiercely defends the female and eggs. Parents and young remain in their territory feeding until the young are about six weeks old when the parents abandon them to join other youngsters in creches of 50 or more birds.

Similar Species. The Cape Barren Goose is unique in Australia and should not be confused with any other species