While many South Africans would characterise Egyptian Geese as a nuisance or overlook them as common, two caring and compassionate Camps Bay locals have developed a remarkable relationship with a pair of resident Egyptian Geese. They show us a different side to these fascinating and often misjudged birds.
We should admire this goose for its hardiness in the face our relentless pressure on the natural world and not hold it against this bird. At a time when so many species are under such extreme threat, from rhinos to African penguins, we should be pleased to see that some wildlife is holding out so well.
The pair of Egyptian Geese, one male and one female, has lived on the sports field beside The Bay Hotel for years. “I started working here nine years ago, and the geese were living here when I arrived,” says on-site groundskeeper for the Cape Town Club, Simba Chihoro.
Twice a year they would lay their eggs in the gardens at The Bay Hotel. However, when the eggs hatched, the newborn goslings were vulnerable to predators such as house cats, which hunted using the undergrowth of the garden as camouflage.
A Life-Saving Intervention
Michelle, a local resident had been watching this tragic cycle take place.
“The chicks were getting picked off one by one. The brood would start out with 12 goslings, and every week one more would be missing,” says Michelle. “That’s when I decided to intervene.”
Michelle feeds the Gander by hand in the field by The Bay Hotel.
Michelle collected the eggs and moved them to her rooftop garden across the street from the field, and the parents followed. The geese hatched a successful brood, which did not lose any young. Through the process, Michelle and the pair of geese developed an understanding.
The mother goose makes her nest on the roof of a local Camps Bay resident, where her goslings can hatch in safety.
The mother makes a nest of down feathers for her eggs and sits on them for about a month before hatching.
An Unlikely Friendship
Michelle has gotten familiar enough with them to be able to touch them and pet them easily. She can whistle and from a distance of 100 metres, both birds will fly to her.
Occasionally, they even wake her up in the middle of the night by tapping on her window.
“Last night something was up with him, the male goose. He tapped on my window and I knew he wanted something!”
The goslings are born on the roof but raised on the field where at 10 weeks old they are taught to fly by their parents. The tricky thing is getting them from the five-story private residence to the ground floor and across the road.
The solution? The geese parents would push the young fledgelings off the roof. They are so light that the fall wouldn’t hurt them, but they didn’t all end up on the ground floor.
Geese are very protective over their young, but Michelle has developed a close relationship with the geese so she can approach the goslings. They even follow her around the field. She says she has to be careful or they will follow her all the way home.
“I woke up one morning to find baby geese on all the different levels of my house,” says Michelle. “Once I worked out what they were doing, I gathered all the goslings together and called the parents down and walked them across the street to the field.”
Michelle checks in on the family every day. Simba also checks in on them and helps to make sure they are safe.
“They love following me when I have the hose on,” says Simba.
Egyptian Geese are Wild Animals
While the pair have developed human friendship, they still are wild animals. Egyptian Geese mate for life and are very territorial. Even when the female is sitting on her nest with the eggs, the male will stay in the field to protect their territory. When the goslings become fully mature, that territorial nature applies to them as well. The male will chase the young off of the field.
This aggression can go for humans as well. So a word of caution: don’t approach the geese, especially when they have young with them.
Right now, the mother goose is sitting on a brood of eight eggs that will be ready to hatch any day.
The Bay Hotel is currently planning on building them a pond, which will be filled with borehole water, in an effort to provide for these wild animals and to try to dissuade them from using the hotel swimming pools.
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