Visitors to the Falkland Islands will no doubt be familiar with the upland goose, one of the most conspicuous birds on the island group (3) (4). However, the Falklands population (Chloephaga picta leucoptera) represents only one of two subspecies of the upland goose, with the other subspecies (C. p. picta) ranging through southern mainland South America (2) (5). In common with other sheldgeese (Chloephaga sp.), the upland goose has a relatively upright stance and long, powerful legs, well adapted to walking, running and feeding on land (2). Not only do the sexes have different plumage, but the two subspecies differ slightly in appearance, while the male of the mainland subspecies, otherwise known as the lesser upland goose, occurs in two distinct forms. The white form of the male lesser upland goose has a white head, neck, breast and belly, with black barring on the rear flanks and mantle. The wings are boldly patterned black, white and metallic green, and the tail is black. The barred form is identical to the white form, except that the entire undersurface of the body is barred black and white. In contrast with both forms of the male, the female lesser upland goose has a cinnamon-brown head and neck, cinnamon-white underparts, flanks and mantle, all of which are heavily barred black, and a black tail, glossed with green. The male Falkland upland goose is slightly larger than its mainland counterpart, but in appearance closely resembles the white form, with narrower black barring on the rear flanks. Similarly, the female Falklands upland goose is larger than the mainland female, and has a brighter reddish-cinnamon head, and wider cinnamon barring on the underparts (2) (5).
- Also known as
- Magellan goose.
- Length: 59 - 72 cm (2)
Upland goose biology
The upland goose is a diurnal grazer, feeding mainly on grass, with berries, seeds and green algae also sometimes featuring in its diet (7). Although it favours short grass for grazing, it generally breeds in denser vegetation where it can conceal the nest (3). On the Falkland Islands, egg-laying occurs from September to October, with the female alone incubating around five to eight eggs (2) (3). The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching, but remain close to the parents and feed on insects and vegetation. Owing to predation by birds of prey, infant mortality is high, with surviving chicks usually fledging around January or February (3).
On the mainland, northern breeders generally remain in the same area year round, while those in the south migrate north over winter (2).
Upland goose range
The lesser upland goose breeds in southern Chile and Argentina, south to Tierra del Fuego, with the barred form occupying southernmost Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The Falkland upland goose is native to the Falklands Islands, but has also been introduced on South Georgia (2) (5) (6).
Species with a similar range
Upland goose habitat
Found in grassy plains, pastures and open mountain slopes, at all altitudes. Although it often breeds nears rivers and streams, and usually occurs near the sea on the Falklands, it is also not uncommon to find the upland goose far from water (2) (5).
Species found in a similar habitat
Upland goose status
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Upland goose threats
On both the Falkland Islands and the South American mainland, the upland goose has been persecuted as an agricultural pest that competes with sheep for grazing (2) (4). Although hunting and habitat destruction are responsible for a continuing decline on the mainland (2) (8), the species remains widespread and abundant (6). Similarly, the Falklands population is relatively stable (2).
Upland goose conservation
There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the upland goose.
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- Active during the day.
- In birds, the upper surface of the wings, shoulder feathers and back, when coloured differently from the rest of the body.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (December, 2008)
Ogilvie, M.A. and Young, S. (2002) Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
Falklands.net (June, 2009)
Wheeler, T. (2004) The Falklands & South Georgia Island. Lonely Planet Publications, London.
Blake, E.R. (1977) Manual of Neotropical Birds, Volume 1. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
BirdLife International (June, 2007)
Summers, R.W. and Grieve, A. (1982) Diet, feeding behaviour and food intake of the upland goose (Chloephaga picta) and ruddy-headed goose (C. rubidiceps) in the Falkland Islands. Journal of Applied Ecology, 19: 783 - 804.
Blanco, D.E. and de la Balze, V.M. (2006) Harvest of migratory geese (Chloephaga spp) in Argentina: an overview of the present situation. In: Boere, G.C., Galbraith, C.A. and Stroud, D.A. (Eds) Waterbirds around the World. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh.