The Cape Barren goose (''Cereopsis novaehollandiae'') is a large
goose A goose (plural geese) is a bird of any of several waterfowl Anseriformes is an order (biology), order of birds that comprise about 180 living species in three families: Anhimidae (the 3 screamers), Anseranatidae (the magpie goose), and An ...

resident in southern
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

. The species is named for
Cape Barren Island Cape Barren Island ( Palawa kani: ''truwana''), part of the Furneaux Group, is a island in the Bass Strait, off the north east coast of Tasmania, Australia. The largest island of the Furneaux Group, Flinders Island, Tasmania, Flinders Island, l ...

Cape Barren Island
, where specimens were first sighted by European explorers.


The Cape Barren goose was first described by English ornithologist John Latham in 1801 under the current
binomial name In taxonomy Taxonomy is the practice and science of categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of recognizing shared features or similarities between the elements of the experience Experience refers to conscious ...
. It is a most peculiar goose of uncertain affiliations (Sraml ''et al.'' 1996). It may either belong in the "true geese" and
swan Swans are birds of the family (biology), family Anatidae within the genus ''Cygnus''. The swans' closest relatives include the goose, geese and ducks. Swans are grouped with the closely related geese in the subfamily Anserinae where they form th ...

subfamily Anserinae or in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae as distinct tribe (biology), tribe Cereopsini, or be separated, possibly including the prehistorically extinct flightless New Zealand geese of the genus ''Cnemiornis'', in a distinct subfamily Cereopsinae. The first bones of the New Zealand birds to be discovered were similar enough to those of the Cape Barren goose to erroneously refer to them as "New Zealand Cape Barren goose" (''"Cereopsis" novaezeelandiae''). The smaller population of Cape Barren goose in Western Australia is described as a subspecies, ''Cereopsis novaehollandiae grisea'', and named for the group of islands known as the Recherche Archipelago.


These are bulky geese and their almost uniformly grey plumage, bearing rounded black spots, is unique. The tail and flight feathers are blackish and the legs are pink with black feet. The short, decurved black bill and green cere gives it a very peculiar expression. The Cape Barren goose is long, weighs and has a wingspan; males are somewhat larger than females. This bird feeds by grazing and rarely swims.


Their ability to drink salt or brackish water allows numbers of geese to remain on offshore islands all year round. They are one of the rarest of the world's geese. They are gregarious outside the breeding season, when they wander more widely, forming small flocks.

Range and habitat

A previous decline in numbers appears to have been reversed as birds in the east at least have adapted to feeding on agricultural land. The breeding areas are grassy islands off the Australian coast, where this species nests on the ground. Breeding pairs are strongly territorial. It bears captivity well, quite readily breeding in confinement if large enough paddocks are provided. In Australia, 19th-century explorers named a number of islands "Goose Island" due to the species' presence there. A few geese were introduced near Christchurch, New Zealand. They have persisted to this day. In 1968, a small number of geese were introduced to Maria Island.


*Madge, Steve & Burn, Hilary (1987): ''Wildfowl : an identification guide to the ducks, geese and swans of the world''. Helm Identification Guides, Christopher Helm, London. *Sraml, M.; Christidis, L.; Easteal, S.; Horn, P. & Collet, C. (1996): Molecular Relationships Within Australasian Waterfowl (Anseriformes). ''Australian Journal of Zoology'' 44(1): 47–58. (HTML abstract) https://tomelbourne.com.au/cape-barren-goose-bird-phillip-island/

External links

BirdLife Species Factsheet

Holotype of ''Cereopsis novaehollandiae'' in the collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa TongarewaPhotos, audio and video of Cape Barren goose
from Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library
Photos of Cape Barren goose
from Graeme Chapman's photo library {{DEFAULTSORT:goose, Cape Barren Geese, Cape Barren goose Cereopsis, Cape Barren goose Birds of South Australia Birds of Tasmania Birds of Victoria (Australia) Birds of Western Australia Birds described in 1801, Cape Barren goose Taxa named by John Latham (ornithologist), Cape Barren goose