Pygmy Geese

Belonging to the same subfamily (Plectropterinae), but very different in size and appearance from those last considered, are the curious little Dwarf or Pygmy Geese (Nettopus), of which four species are known, ranging from tropical Africa and Madagascar through India and Malacca to China and Australia. These diminutive Geese, for they are true Geese, are no larger than a small Green-winged Teal, the largest being only thirteen and one half inches in length, and the smallest but eleven and one half inches. The African species (N.auritus) is shining black-green above and mostly white below, with a white stripe along the wing, and the chest, flanks, and sides rufous, the first narrowly black barred. It is found in pairs or small flocks in the lagoons near the rivers and lakes and is rarely seen away from the water. The Indian species (N. coromandelianus), which may be known by the white neck and a broad black band across the breast, is said by Dr. Jerdon to nest “generally in holes in old trees, often at some distance from water, occasionally in ruined houses, temples, old chimneys, and the like, laying eight or ten — sometimes, it is stated, as many as fifteen — small white eggs.” The Green Pygmy Goose (N. pulchellus) of Australia is reported by Gould to build a rest of dried grasses in shallow water, which, it appears, the Indian species may also occasionally do.

The Cape Barren or Cereopsis Goose (Cereopsis novae-hollandiae) is another of the somewhat aberrant members of this family, well entitled to stand as the only living representative of a subfamily (Cereopsinae). It is nearly three feet in total length, of massive build, with stout legs and feet, and a short, thick bill, nearly the whole of which is covered with a cere of a lemon-yellow color. The plumage is brownish gray, becoming whitish on the crown of the head, and the feathers of the back and wing-coverts with a brownish black spot near the tips. The bill, except when it is covered with the cere, is black and the legs reddish orange. Gould states that this Goose was found to be very abundant by the early voyagers, and so tame that it could be knocked down with sticks or even taken in the hand ; but as it is strictly a vegetable feeder, its flesh proved such excellent eating that it was soon almost exterminated, and sixty years ago it had become so scarce as to be rarely seen. It seems likely that it will ultimately share the fate of its near relative, the extinct Cnemiornis. The voice of the bird is described as a disagreeable deep, hoarse clanging, and the nest as a well-built affair lined with feathers and down. The eggs are creamy white in color and about three and one fourth by two and one fourth inches. It takes readily to confinement, but is very pugnacious, inflicting severe wounds with its powerful, sharp bill.