By Kristy Grinere and Megan Pendagast
The tale of the Egyptian goose and the mallard he made his mate is a love story for the ages. One crotchety and cantankerous creature that was seemingly doomed to a lonely existence at Centennial Lake through circumstance and disposition has now settled into a family. But how did this strange bird get to campus?
The species is a member of the duck, goose and swan family and is native to sub-Saharan Africa and the Nile Valley. These creatures were once considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians and have traveled many miles to arrive on the campus green.
“They have been here for a few years now,” Manager of Grounds Lawrence Toth said. “There used to be two geese, a male and a female, but now only the male is here, I believe.”
How this species made its way to New Jersey is still something of a mystery to the birding community. According to pressofatlanticcity.com, in September of 1996, a bird watcher documented the arrival of more than 50 Egyptian geese at Six Flags Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, N.J. The geese have bred since then along the Raritan River in central New Jersey.
Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Associate Biology Professor Dr. Laura Hyatt noticed the trend.
“The Egyptian goose is not native to North America, but is becoming increasingly prevalent,” Hyatt said. “I live around the Rider area so I have seen the geese before. The first place I ever saw them was by Colonial Lakes on the other side of Route 1.”
According to Hyatt, the interconnected waterways in Lawrence might have played a part.
“Everything connects — it’s all just one big waterway,” Hyatt said.
The Egyptian goose, affectionately referred to as the “duck goose” by some students, is a long-term, highly visible resident at Rider. With a 2-foot body length and a wingspan of nearly 5 feet, he is hard to miss. He is known around campus for his size, demeanor and the characteristic red spot circling his yellow left eye.
Last spring, for the first known time, the Egyptian goose became a father. According to The New York Times article “Mating for Life? It’s Not for the Birds of the Bees,” most mallard ducks — Centennial Lake’s most common inhabitants — do not mate for life and typically move on when the hen’s eggs hatch. Recent studies have shown that most species of birds are prone to philandering. This is not the case with the Egyptian goose, however.
Contrary to most species of duck, Egyptian geese tend to pair for life, taking turns incubating the eggs and caring for their offspring indefinitely. Rider’s Egyptian goose’s chosen mate is one of Centennial Lake’s mallards, and the couple, as well as some of their offspring, can be seen around campus. Despite the fact that their eight hybrid ducklings and goslings hatched mid-spring, the family is still together.
The family can be seen standing together near Bearcat Bridge on Centennial Lake’s waterfall, in the reeds or in the grass near Fine Arts and the Greek houses.
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