Birds – Spur-winged Geese

Quite closely related are the African Spur-winged Geese (Plectropterus), of which some four species, or well-marked geographical races, are recognized. They are quite large birds, being about thirty-eight inches long, and take their name from the presence of a stout spur on the bend of the wing. In two of the species the front of the head is provided with a high knob, but this appears to be a rather variable character. The plumage is metallic black. above, with green and purple reflections, and, except for the black breast, is mainly white below. The legs are rather long and placed near the middle of the body. In the common species (P. Gambensis) of West and East Africa, the frontal knob is rather small, this, together with the bare fore-head and bill, being coral-red in color Similar, but larger, is Rüppell’s Spur-winged Goose (P. rüppelli) of northeast and equatorial Africa, which has the highest frontal knob of any of the species. In southeast Africa the place is taken by the black species (P. Niger), and in Shoa by the nearly knobless species (P. Scioanus). The habits of the common species (P. Gambensis) are described as follows by Mr. Thomas Ayres : ” Sometimes they are very shy, and at others almost absurdly tame; as a rule it requires heavy shot to kill them. They come out early in the morning from the swamps and weeds to feed on grass seeds, and are often seen on the farmer’s corn lands. As a rule they are gregarious, but are sometimes seen singly, and at other times in pairs; they breed away from water in thick, grassy or rushy spots, and lay a number of white eggs with thick, glossy shells.”