Bio Facts: Goose, Orinoco
Northern South America east of Andes: eastern Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, southward through Amazonian Brazil, extreme east of Peru, eastern and southern Bolivia and Paraguay, and the Salta Province (extreme north) of Argentina
Forest lakes or marshes with access to open woodland or savanna
Adult length: 24 – 30 in (61 – 76 cm); adult weight: 2 – 3.5 lbs. (907 – 1588 g); coloration & appearance: a pale head and neck, chestnut flanks and mantle and blackish wings with a white speculum. The legs are red and the bill is black and pinkish. The sexes are identical in plumage, though the males are larger; juveniles are duller than adults.
Ranges from 10 - 25 years
In the wild, they eat mostly grasses and sedges, sometimes worms, insects and mollusks; in the Zoo, they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available pelleted waterfowl diet, greens and insects.
IUCN – Near Threatened
The Orinoco goose is a largely terrestrial species, which will also perch readily in trees. It rarely swims or flies unless hard pressed. It is a very territorial species in the breeding season (the dry season), and usually nests in hollow trees and only occasionally on the ground. Both male and female construct the nest. Females lay 6 to 10 brownish, cream colored eggs and incubate the nest for 30 days. Both parents guard the nest. The young fledge (acquire their adult feathers) by 60 to 90 days. The male has a high pitched whistling call, and the female cackles like the related Egyptian goose.
The Orinoco goose is in the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae, and is the only living member of the genus Neochen. Two fossil relatives have been described from Late Pleistocene sites: Neochen pugil and Neochen debilis of Brazil and Argentina, respectively.
In flight it looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck, hence the English name. The name Orinoco is for the Orinoco River, one of the longest rivers in South America at 2,140 km (1,330 miles). Its drainage basin, sometimes called the Orinoquia, covers 880,000 km², 76.3% in Venezuela and the remainder in Colombia. The Orinoco and its tributaries are the major transportation system for eastern and interior Venezuela and the llanos of Colombia, part of the range of the Orinoco goose.
The Tadorninae is the shelduck-sheldgoose subfamily of the Anatidae, the biological family that includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl such as the geese and swans. The available data indicates that the Tadorninae are indeed, as their appearance suggests, somewhat intermediate between geese and dabbling ducks, but the molecular data suggests they are not the only lineage to evolve towards a more duck-like morphology, with the diving ducks and seaducks being more distant.
This species is classified as Near Threatened because it is continuing to undergo a moderately rapid population reduction owing to hunting pressure. It is still locally common in certain areas and, with proper protection, would be much more abundant over its wide range.
Recently, concern has been expressed over the conversion of suitable habitat in Venezuela for agriculture, particularly for rice cultivation, some of which is taking place in formerly protected areas (C. Sharpe in litt. 2010). Further information is requested on this potential threat, including the likely impact on the species. A request is also made for up-to-date information on this species’ status throughout its range, including estimations of population sizes and trends at national and global levels and details on the severity of threats. The species’ population trend should be estimated for a period of 23 years (estimate of three generations).
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The Orinoco goose was found on the Jacksonville Zoo’s animal inventory from 1976 to 1999 and was then brought back into our collection in 2008.