Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman

Emperor goose

Chen canagica (Anser canagica)

Keizergans / Kaisergans / Oie empereur

 

The Emperor Goose is arguably one of the most beautiful species of goose in the world, with it being rivaled perhaps only by the Red-breasted.
It's taxonomic history has been quite complex, with the ornithologist David Sibley placing in it, and other North American “white geese” (Snow, Ross) in their own genus Chen, while others classify it with the rest of the Anser species. It has also been placed in the genus Philacte by some. The latin name canagica comes from the name of one of the islands in the Aleutian chain called Kanaga.

 

The Emperor Goose is not globally threatened, but is considered to be vulnerable, as they have a small natural range and an oil spill could have catastrophic effects on the population. Population size is around 68,000 individuals. Its normal range is from north-eastern Siberia and western Alaska, but has been reported in California, Hawaii and Japan. Most of the population winters in the Aleutian Islands, where they sometimes breed as well.

 

Clutch size is usually between 3-8 eggs and incubation is around 25-27 days. The chicks take around 50-60 days to fledge and remain with their parents until the following spring. Nest sites are usually located in the open, and the female usually lines the nest with down, leaves and other vegetation within reach. Males stand guard over the nest and will confront or try to lure away predators. Birds usually pair for life and usually have quite a strong pair bond.

 

Wild goslings and adults really on diet based mainly of vegetation including grass and sedges, seaweed and sometimes berries; some aquatic invertebrates are also taken. In captivity, it is best to raise goslings on grass with access to waterfowl pellet. Too much protein at a young age can sometimes lead to slip-tendon, angel wing and other physical deformities. Birds raised on pasture have been found to feather out with much more colour and brightness than those without constant access to greens (pers. obs.). The recommended size for close leg bands is 16mm. Birds usually reach maturity at 3 years of age, although sometimes breeding can occur at 2 years.

 

Wild birds are often seen with an orange head, as they feed in marshy areas high in iron, which stains their feathers until the next molt. Birds both in the wild and in captivity, show preference to land over water, usually only using water for bathing and copulation. Goslings are often brought to the waters edge to feed and escape terrestrial predators such as artic fox, although eggs and chicks are more likely to be predated by jaegers and gulls.

 

This species is fairly common in captivity, although some breeders have more prolific pairs than others. Care should be taken to keep records and close band young birds as the wild population is declining in some areas of its range.

 

This attractive goose is suspected to have suffered a moderately rapid decline, and it is thought to still be at risk owing to subsistence hunting and oil pollution. It is consequently classified as Near Threatened. Worryingly, it is expected to undergo a moderate population reduction in the near future owing to climate change. The global population is estimated to number > c.85,000 individuals (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2001), while the population in Russia has been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs (Brazil 2009).

 

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Above: Some of the founder birds of the captive population in the USA. 

 

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Above: One of the founder birds of the captive population in the USA (32 years old at this photo). 

 

 

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Above: captive breeding Emperor goose

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