Cape Barren Goose

Cereopsis novaehollandiae

Cape Barren Goose. Photo: John Spiers

While differing in detail from northern hemisphere geese, Cape Barren Geese are similar in size and appearance and like them graze on fields and pastures adjacent to water. At one time they were heavily hunted and there was concern for their future, but now they are fully protected.

Cape Barren Geese graze on a range of plants including agricultural pastures and native succulents. The birds roost on the margins of dams, swamps and lakes and lagoons, whether fresh or brackish. During the non-breeding season, they form small flocks usually less than 300 birds.

Breeding is during the winter months, June to September, on offshore islands. They are monogamous and form life-long pairs. The nest is a shallow cup of grass and twigs beneath bushes, tussocks or rocks. A typical clutch consists of 4-5 creamy-white eggs. Incubation is by the female only.


Cape Barren Geese are large, grey goose-like birds with a square black tail. Males are larger than females, otherwise the sexes are alike. The wing coverts have large, irregular dark circles or blackish spots. The greenish-yellow cere covers most of the upper mandible except for its black tip. The legs are dusky-red and the feet are black. Immatures are paler but otherwise similar. Chicks are striped brown and white with a brown stripe through the eye.

Where to find it

Cape Barren Geese were introduced onto Kangaroo Island in the 1920s and 1930s where they breed and may now be seen year-round. They also breed on islands off the Eyre Peninsula and in summer migrate to neighbouring mainland areas. Hindmarsh Island is a convenient area close to Adelaide where they may be seen from October to May. At the end of summer small flocks are often seen circling Goolwa before they head out to the breeding areas.

Only the nominate race is found in South Australia.