At the zoo: in Bird World
In the wild: swamps, marshes, shallow lakes, slow moving rivers and other bodies of water in Africa
At the zoo: greens, specially formulated food for waterfowl, mealworms, wax worms and crickets
In the wild: primarily seeds, some vegetation, insects and small fish
During breeding season birds pair up to mate and build a nest. Shy and secretive not much is known about this species social behavior.
Introducing feathered friend, Lucy, the African pygmy goose (Nettapus auritus). Lucy hatched on August 16, 2008 in North Carolina Zoological Park and came to Denver Zoo about a year later. Now she lives in the third room inside of Bird World. This room is known as the Jungle exhibit and is considered a multi-species exhibit. Lucy lives with 9 other birds of 4 other species of bird. Lucy can be shy and secretive, but she loves to be in her pool. She can often be foundunder the log that hangs over the pool. You may also see her under some of the plants in the room near the pool.
Even though Lucy’s namesays she is agoose, she is actually a duck. The difference between the two is sometimes not clear and there are always exceptions. Geese and ducks all belong to the family Anatidae which includes ducks, geese and swans. In general, ducks are usually smaller and stouter, geese are usually bigger and longer. Geese and ducks have different bill shapes, which is why African pygmy geese got the goose part of their name because of their stubby goose-like bill. African pygmy geese are actually “perching ducks” that nest in trees.
African pygmy geese are native to Africa including Madagascar. They reside in swamps, marshes, flooded savannas, slow moving rivers and dense jungle like habitats. They mainly feed on the seeds of water lilies and other aquatic vegetation. Here at Denver Zoo, Lucy is fed a traditional waterfowl diet. This includes waterfowl pellet with a sprinkle of millet and a small amount of finely chopped romaine lettuce. For a special treat she is offered live insects in the morning and in the afternoon. She enjoys meal worms, wax worms and crickets.
The African pygmy goose is considered a sexually dimorphic species. This means you can tell the male and female apart by the way they look. In this case it is by the color of their feathers. Lucy has a greyish face with a small amount of green on her head. Male African pygmy geese are very vibrant in color. They have a white face with green ear patches and metallic green on their back, and a remarkable yellow beak. Lucy’s mate Ricky, who lives with her, is a good example of sexual dimorphism compared to her.
Due to the wide range of habitat, African pygmy geese are considered least vulnerable on the IUCN list. In some regions, dams have created shallow, weedy waters that are perfect habitat and their numbers have increased. In other areas the introduction of tilapia, a non-native fish, has changed the aquatic plant life that the pygmy geese rely on for food, therefore pushing these birds away from some areas. Pygmy geese are highly dependent upon specific seeds for food, and will abandon degraded habitats and hunting is said to be a threat in Madagascar as well.
While visiting the Denver Zoo stop by Bird World and visit Lucy in her Jungle habitat. Look for her in the pool or under some of the plants. Remember Lucy is shy and blends in very well with her surroundings.