Tuesday 18 December 2012

The many Egyptian Geese on the north shore of the Serpentine were more mobile today, some flying around the lake looking for people who might feed them, others prospecting for nest sites in dead trees in Kensington Gardens. Where there are more than two there is a dispute. The right-hand pair in this tree were alternately shouting defiance at the interloper and congratulating each other on being a couple. Both are noisy affairs.

There was a lone Barnacle Goose at the Round Pond, smaller than its relative the Canada Goose and with a distinctively short bill. It was grazing with a flock of Greylags.

They appear in the park from time to time, and it is not clear whether they are the descendants of a pair in an ornamental collection, or genuinely wild birds that have strayed in from the coast. This bird was not at all wary of humans, so probably it was bred in a park.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was rooting about in an old squirrels' drey, evidently looking for insects. When it stood upright its head was behind a branch, so this rather poor picture was the best I could manage.

A Pochard, Mallard and Tufted Duck appeared side by side, making a colourful ensemble.

The number of Shovellers seems to be steady at about 30 in the whole park, though it is impossible to count them accurately when they are skulking under the bushes that overhang the Long Water. However, there don't seem to be any Red-Brested Pochard or Gadwall at the moment. And I haven't seen any of the rarer visitors, such as Teal or Wigeon, since last winter, and as far as I know there hasn't been a Garganey, Pintail, Goldeneye or Scaup on the lake for years.


  1. I've been wondering some time about the Egyptian Goose population explosion in the parks and whether it will be self-limiting. Correct me if I'm wrong but I understand that they are seriously territorial and the losers in the territory battle may therefore either be pushed or choose to find pastures new. In other words, is the gang we see grazing to the north of the Serpentine a gang of youngsters who will literally take flight eventually? Is it true they spread from E. Anglia and if so is there anything in the records to indicate how they've settled along the way?
    What a terrific picture of the mallard, pochard and great tufted.

  2. The large flock on the north of the Serpentine includes adults. These birds are sociable when not breeding, apart from the kind of mild squabbles that you also see with true geese. They become more territorial when breeding, but not in such a way that would prevent their numbers in the park increasing substantially from the current 60 or so. But this is part of a continuous spread; they have spilt into the park from somewhere and will spill out of it to other suitable places -- probably they already have.

    They were imported originally as an ornamental species and can live on quite small ponds. At present the main British population is in East Anglia, but I am sure that it will gradually spread over the rest of England, wherever there are lakes or ponds with grassy areas around them.

    Exactly the same thing is happening with Egyptian Geese in the Netherlands and other parts of western Europe, and in Texas and Florida. It seems likely that they will soon be as ubiquitous as Canada Geese. There is a map of their current habitats at

    1. Thanks again, also for the link, which has lots of interesting detail and which confirms local observations of how adaptive and successful they are. In your long experience of the ebb and flow of wildlife in the parks do you foresee any threat from their burgeoning numbers?

    2. Not really. They will just follow the Canada and Greylag Geese to the status of a numerous and noticeable species. There is room enough in this big park for them. The main threat to wildlife in the park is from the human management.