The Cape Barren Goose Cereopsis novaehollandiae is a large goose confined to islands and the nearby mainland of southern Australia. Together with the Coscoroba Swan Coscoroba coscoroba of South America it is thought to belong to a primitive group whose ancestors gave rise to the modern true geese and swans.
Once common the Cape Barren Goose is now restricted in range, especially in Western Australia, but can be reasonably common in some parts of eastern Australia and Tasmania thanks mainly to their safe refuges on several islands. These islands are used as their primary breeding areas in winter, safe from predators and other threats, and in summer many tend to migrate to the mainland. This species was feared to become extinct in the wild in the mid 20th century due to hunting, predation and habitat modification but conservation efforts have increased their numbers. It is still regarded as one of the rarest geese in the world.
In Gippsland the Cape Barren Goose is relatively stable on Philllip Island thanks to fox and cat control efforts and is a reliable place to see the species. This pair was photographed in open paddock near Surf Beach on Phillip Island feeding on pasture grasses.
This species was first described by European explorers at Cape Barren Island in the Bass Strait and this and other islands in the area are still some of it’s strongholds.
Grasses, particularly the Coastal Tussock-grass Poa poifomis and a variety of pasture grasses are their main food with some herbs and succulents such as saltbush also eaten as well.
To ensure the ongoing survival of this species more conservation work needs to be undertaken in coastal habitats, especially grasslands and wetlands. This includes the remediation and protection of these fragile habitats, an intense and prolonged feral predator control program and public awareness of this iconic and unique bird.