January 28, 2015
A Rare Pair
- as seen by -David Oehler
A rare pair of ruddy-headed geese has joined the other Patagonian birds in the Aitken Seabird Aviary at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.
Once numerous in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the ruddy-headed goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps) is on the brink of extinction. The geese that live in Tierra del Fuego have declined by more than 50% to less than 1,000 birds, although the populations in the Falkland Islands appear to be stable with more than 40,000 geese. Since the two populations are genetically distinct, protection of the breeding grounds on Tierra del Fuego is a priority. The cause of the decline in Tierra del Fuego may be directly linked to the introduction of the Patagonian fox to the island in 1951. Danger to these birds continues as they migrate to their winter grounds and may be hunted by local farmers.
Efforts in Patagonia, the southern portion of South America, to reverse the negative effects of invasive species is underway. Programs to safeguard the nesting areas and release captive-bred geese may ensure the survival of these magnificent birds.
Both the male and female have chestnut brown necks and heads. These birds prefer open coastal grassland areas where they feed on plant materials. The addition of these birds to the Bronx Zoo allows our visitors to glimpse the diversity of species found throughout Patagonia and better appreciate the wildlife that needs our help to survive.