African pygmy geese are prevalent throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa and the island nation of Madagascar. They inhabit permanent or temporary freshwater lakes, ponds, swamps, marshes, inland deltas, flood plains, slow-flowing rivers, and occasionally coastal lagoons.
African pygmy geese spend most of their time swimming and floating on the surface of quiet water. They don’t come ashore often but will perch on branches overhanging water and usually roost on partially submerged trees.
These small waterfowl can easily be overlooked during the day, sitting motionless among water-lilies. They do most of their foraging in the early morning or at dusk. They eat water-lily seeds and the seeds and vegetative parts of other aquatic plants. They will also grab up small fish and aquatic insects.
African pygmy geese are normally found in pairs or small family groups. They are somewhat nomadic, moving in response to seasonal rains, but they don’t really migrate. They may gather in larger groups of up to 200 birds when molting or during the dry season.
This little goose is really a diminutive duck! Although referred to as a goose because of its goose-like beak, African pygmy geese are actually classified as perching ducks.
Males and females are nearly the same size but can be distinguished by beak color. Males have bright yellow beaks; females have grayish beaks.
African pygmy geese are cavity nesters. They usually nest above water in natural tree hollows or cavities but have also been found nesting in cliff holes, termite hills, artificial nest boxes, and sometimes on the ground in clumps of grass or papyrus stands. Pairs choose their nesting sites together. Females lay clutches of 6-12 eggs and are the only ones to sit on the nest, incubating the eggs for 3 to 4 weeks. Females then care for their young for about 7 weeks after hatching, until the young fledge.
Although eggs and nestlings are surely vulnerable to predation, very little has been written about predator-prey relationships for this species. African pygmy geese are on the decline in Madagascar where they are hunted. Habitat degradation also presents a threat across the range and can result from pollution, siltation, or intentional drainage of water sources as well as the introduction of exotic fish species that alter the makeup and amount of aquatic vegetation.
African pygmy geese are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, the world’s leading conservation organization. They have an extremely large range. Their overall population is large and relatively stable.
Madge and Burn, Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to the ducks, geese, and swans of the world.
Johnsgard, Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World.