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Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Trend justification
The overall trend is increasing, although some populations may be stable (Wetlands International 2006).

Behaviour This species is partially migratory, making seasonal movements (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of several hundred kilometres (Brown et al. 1982) related to the availability of water (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It breeds during or near the end of the wet season in solitary pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) although it may also feed in small groups during this period (Kear 2005a). The species congregates after breeding (at the beginning of the dry season) (del Hoyo et al. 1992) to undergo a flightless moulting period lasting for c.50 days (Kear 2005a) (6-7 weeks) (Johnsgard 1978), the males moulting before the females (Kear 2005a). It is commonly found in small groups of up to 50 individuals (Madge and Burn 1988) and occasionally aggregates into larger flocks (e.g. when moulting) (Kear 2005a). In the winter it rests by day and feeds in the early morning, evening or at night (Kear 2005a), sometimes perching in trees to roost (Brown et al. 1982). Habitat The species inhabits seasonal and permanent wetlands (Kear 2005a) near grasslands or arable land (del Hoyo et al. 1992), including lakes, rivers (del Hoyo et al. 1992), inland river deltas (Madge and Burn 1988), marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1992), swamps, flooded grasslands, pastures (Kear 2005a), reservoirs (del Hoyo et al. 1992), farm impoundments (Hockey et al. 2005) and sewage works (Johnsgard 1978), particularly those with emergent and fringing vegetation (Kear 2005a) and surrounded by scattered trees (del Hoyo et al. 1992). When moulting it frequents areas with open shorelines, islands and sandbars (Kear 2005a), generally avoiding saline lakes and upland areas (Madge and Burn 1988). Diet Its diet consist predominantly of plant matter such as the vegetative parts and seeds of grasses, sedges and aquatic plants (del Hoyo et al. 1992), agricultural grain (del Hoyo et al. 1992), fruit (e.g. figs) (Kear 2005a) and tuberous crops (Johnsgard 1978) (e.g. sweet potatoes) (Kear 2005a), although it may occasionally take small fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or insects (Kear 2005a). Breeding site The species shows a preference for nesting in hollow trees, tree-cavities or in the abandoned nests of other tree-nesting bird species (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. Hamerkop Scopus umbretta (Madge and Burn 1988), African Fish-eagle Haliaeetus vocifer or Social Weaver Philetairus scoius (Brown et al. 1982)), often between 20 and 100 cm high in trees 3-4 m tall (Hockey et al. 2005). Where tree-nesting sites are unavailable (Brown et al. 1982), it will also nest on the ground (del Hoyo et al. 1992) in long grass or reeds near water (Brown et al. 1982), in rock cavities, holes in termite mounds (Madge and Burn 1988), or even in aardvark Orycteropus afer burrows (Brown et al. 1982).

The species is threatened by uncontrolled hunting (declines in Botswana have been attributed to hunting outside of protected areas) (Hockey et al. 2005). Utilisation The species is hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria (Nikolaus 2001).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hockey, P. A. R.; Dean, W. R. J.; Ryan, P. G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 1: general chapters; species accounts (Anhima to Salvadorina). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Madge, S.; Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Nikolaus, G. 2001. Bird exploitation for traditional medicine in Nigeria. Malimbus 23: 45-55.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Plectropterus gambensis. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1766)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 15,800,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change