Ruddy-headed Goose

The Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps) is a large sheldgoose found in southernmost South America on the open grassy plains of Tierra del Fuego, Chile and the Falkland Islands. The South American birds are now very rare. Winters are spent on lowlands in southern Argentina, some distance north of the breeding range. The Falklands population is resident.

The lined nest is built in grass tussocks and 4-11 eggs are laid. This species favors damp upland forest clearings and feeds by grazing. It forms flocks outside the breeding season, often mixed with Ashy-headed Goose.

This stocky goose measures 45-50cm and it has a pale grey back, and black-barred rich buff underparts. The head and upper neck are chestnut brown. Males and females are similar, but juveniles are duller.

In flight this species shows black primaries, with the rest of the wing white except for a broad green bar. The male’s call is a soft whistle, and the female’s is a harsh cackle.

The Ruddy-headed Goose remains numerous in the Falklands, despite competition from grazing cattle and sheep, but the South American population has been reduced to a few hundred birds not only by livestock farming, but especially predation by the Argentine Fox, which was introduced to control rabbits.