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Cape Barren Goose

Cereopsis novaehollandiae


Large, pale ash-grey goose with a square black tail. Its triangular bill is almost completely covered by a greenish-yellow cere (skin above the bill). Rows of large dark spots in lines across its shoulders and wing coverts. Legs are pink with black feet. In flight it shows dark wingtips. 

Size: between 75-100 cm. Males are larger than females weighing between 3.5-5.5 kg while females weigh on average 3.5 kg.  Their wingspan measures between 150-190cm. 


Call: distinctive loud, deep pig-like grunts or honks. Male: loud harsh ‘ark, ark-ark, ark-ark’. Immature: reedy shistles

Diet: The Cape Barren Goose is a grazing bird, eating predominantly common island tussock grass, Poa poiformis, as well as spear grass and various herbs and succulents. They also eat pasture grasses, including barley and clover, as well as legumes.

Movement: The movements of the Cape Barren Goose are essentially unknown. It seems to be largely sedentary, although there does appear to be some movement of birds between islands and, based on moderately frequent records, some dispersal to the mainland during summer when non-breeding geese generally leave the islands for the mainland where they feed on improved pasture.

Breeding: June – Sept. The Cape Barren Goose reaches sexual maturity at three years of age. After forming a monogamous pair and mating, it lays its eggs between April to November. It builds saucer shaped nests from twigs, grass and feather-down and defends its nest noisily. Clutch size is anywhere between 4-7 white eggs that are incubated by the female for a period of 35-40 days. 


What to Observe




•Bird on chicks

•Bird on eggs

•Bird on nest

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to start breeding and singing earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

Extreme weather threatens Cape Barren Geese. The population size declined considerably in 1991 when a large number of birds died (of starvation or heat stress) during a period of extremely hot and dry weather that caused the widespread death of vegetation in the Archipelago of the Recherche in Western Australia.

 Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?"


When To Look

Breeding commonly occurs between May to September with eggs being lain from April to November and hatching 6 weeks after gestation. 

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in the timing of these events so remember to keep a lookout all year!

Where To Look

The Cape Barren Goose is found on offshore islands, usually granite, in areas of pasture, tussock grass or low heathy scrub on the coast of south-eastern Australia .The Cape Barren Goose can be found breeding on grassy islands with non-breeding geese leaving the islands during the summer months for improved pastures. 

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes outside of their known ranges so remember to keep a lookout beyond these regions too!




Pizzey and Knight (2001)The Field Guide to Birds of Australia, 8th edition

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    The Cape Barren Goose is a distinctive bird that is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species. It is highly visible and vocal whilst in flight, and is easy to observe in the open habitats in which it occurs. 

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