Happy Goose Day!
Did you know there’s a holiday called Happy Goose Day? Also known as Michaelmas Day, this unique tradition is celebrated annually on September 29. Created by Pope Felix III in 480, the day was meant to celebrate the Archangel Michael, and eventually became the day to elect magistrates in England. During Medieval times, it also became the day where people paid their rent – with geese! Over time the tradition migrated from Europe to the United States, where it is still celebrated in some parts of Pennsylvania! This year, the Virginia Zoo is honoring this holiday in a different way, by serving up fun facts on our resident geese. No – we’re not talking about the Canada geese that migrate to the Zoo; let’s learn about the Egyptian goose!
Egyptian geese have long, pink legs as well as a pink bill with a black tip. The wings have four sections of colors – chestnut brown, white, green and black. The body is tan and the face has a distinctive feature: a bandit mask around dark yellow eyes!
This species is native to meadows, grasslands, and agricultural fields, usually near water, in Africa south of the Sahara, the Nile Valley, and northern Europe. An Egyptian goose’s diet primarily consists of grain and short grass. They can feed both on land and in water.
Egyptian geese are technically not geese, however they are considered shelducks, which are somewhat an intermediate between geese and ducks, which all belong to the same family that also includes swans. They were once also considered to be sacred by ancient Egyptians. This species is listed as a Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) Red List, however the population is decreasing due to shooting and poisoning because they are considered agricultural pests in many parts of their range.
There are currently two Egyptian geese at the Virginia Zoo. Vincent was born May 9, 2011 at the El Paso Zoo in Texas. He arrived in Virginia in March 2012. When he is not napping, Keepers say Vincent, also known as Vince, enjoys splashing in the pool. He is fed a daily diet of greens, mealworms and a waterfowl pellet that is formulated with all of the nutrients he needs! Vince can be found with the bongo in an exhibit along the Africa – Okavango Delta trail.
Stella is the Zoo’s female goose. While her exact hatch date is unknown, she is estimated to be between three and six years old. Stella arrived at the Virginia Zoo from the Metro Richmond Zoo in 2019 and currently lives behind-the-scenes at the Program Animal Building. She is fed a diet of greens, waterfowl grain and produce, and often indulges in softbill grain that her neighbor, Tia the toucan, drops! Her favorite activities include sunbathing and swimming. While this species is considered to be wary, Keepers say Stella is the “ruler of the outside” and is unafraid of her neighboring animal residents such as chickens, rabbits and opossums.