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Geese

Cape Barren goose (Gail Simons photo)

CAPE BARREN

      The Cape Barren Goose, a threatened species in its native Australia, is kept in limited numbers in New Zealand. The Cape Barren is not strictly speaking a goose – its closest relative is our own Paradise Shelduck – but it is usually classed as such for convenience.

      It’s a handsome bird, a strong flier and comes in grey, with soft darker spottings, long pink legs and black feet. Its bill is covered with a fleshy, yellow-green cere. The sexes can be distinguished only by their call – a loud honking by the male, with a deeper grunting by the female.   (Photo by Gail Simons.)

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Chinese geese

CHINESE

      The China or Chinese breed, as the name implies, originated in China, and is also known as the Knob, the Asiatic, and the Hong Kong. It is not a large breed and is characterised by a pronounced head knob (larger in the male) – actually a rounded protuberance at the base of the bill. The breed has attractive colouring (see photo) and is usually kept for ornamental purposes.

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ENGLISH GREY (GREYLAG)

Geese
Grey geese in foreground (Chinese and Sebastopol behind)

      The English Grey has always been the most widespread domestic goose in New Zealand; it was actually first introduced here by Cook in 1773, although there is no record to suggest that those birds survived.

      The English Grey goose was once frequently seen grazing in small flocks on New Zealand farms. Some groups still remain, although they are much rarer today. They were kept almost exclusively for eating, particularly at Christmas.

      It has become trendy, especially among rare breeders, to refer to Greys kept in a semi-feral state – particularly if they have regained the power of flight – as Greylags (often spelled as two words), but this name should strictly speaking be reserved for the wild species in Europe from which they derive.

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PILGRIM

      The Pilgrim is an old English, dual-purpose breed which has been recorded in Britain since early in the 1600s. There is a colour difference in the sexes – the whites are males, the greys females.

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Sebastopol geese

SEBASTOPOL

      The Sebastopol is an unusual goose which has the Greylag as an ancestor, although it originated in Russia. It has long curled feathers which reach, and often drag upon, the ground. It’s usually kept for purely ornamental purposes although, like most geese, it is also a good table bird.

      It has become popular among Rare Breed enthusiasts in recent years.

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