Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps)

Ruddy-headed Goose

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Chloephaga rubidiceps | [authority] P.L. Sclater, 1861 | [UK] Ruddy-headed Goose | [FR] Ouette a tete rousse | [DE] Rotkopf-Gans | [ES] Cauquen Colorado (Arg) | [NL] Roodkopgans


Monotypic species


The sheldgeese are a genus (Chloephaga) of 5 species in the family Anatidae. It belongs to the tribe Tadornini, A group that resembles true geese and shows similar habits but is more closely related to shelducks and ducks. One of the most interesting aspects of the closely knit group of the genus Chloephaga is the great variation in colouration between the species and sexes, ranging from nearly no dimorphism in the Andean goose. All Chloephaga share upper white upper wing coverts, a metallic speculum on the secondary coverts and white secondaries. The voice of the males of these species is a whistle and that of the females a cackle. They also share short, high bills and a semiterrestrial lifestyle.

Physical charateristics

This smallest of the sheldgeese has a bright chestnut-colored head and neck, with a white eyering, while the breast, abdomen and flanks are all finely barred black over a buff background, becoming chestnut on the under tail coverts. The rump and tail are black and the upper parts pale grayish. The wing coloration is like that of the other sheldgeese, with an iridescent area formed by the greater secondary coverts, while the secondaries and the other coverts are white. The bill is black, and the legs and feet are bright orange, variably spotted with black. Females are slightly smaller than males (see folded wing measurement), but otherwise essentially identical. Juveniles and subadults through their first year have noniridescent greater secondary coverts. In the field, this species most closely resembles the female Magellan goose and may be seen with it, but is much smaller and has a conspicuous eye-ring and finer barring on the body. Males utter a repeated whistling note and females a rasping quack.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 45 cm size max.: 52 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 32 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 8  


South America : South. Breeds in Tierra del Fuego (Chile and Argentina) and nearby mainland Chile and winters in the southern Buenos Aires province in Argentina.


The ruddy-headed goose, like the Magellan goose, is characteristic of open plains or open places in wooded areas or damp upland forest clearings. Favoured territorial areas are penguin greens, naturally fertile areas along valley bottoms and by ponds and fertilised grassland or reseeds near settlements.


On the Falklands, the nests are usually well hidden in long grasses or rushes, are placed,under rock outcrops, or may even be situated in old pinguin burrows. From 5 to 8 eggs are normally laid, and incubation is performed by the female alone, while the male typically waits at the nearest pond, which may be a considerable distance from the nest. After an incubation period of 30 days, the newly hatched young are led to water and thereafter the family leads a semiaquatic life. There is no specific information available on the fledging period or growth rate of the goslings. A breeding pair may rear up to five goslings to the free-flying stage. Once the young can fly, the family?s attachment to their feeding territory wanes, as does their aggressive attitude. The family unit remains together during the winter and will often form loose groups with others at favoured feeding sites.

Feeding habits

It feeds by grazing on roots, leaves, stems and seed-heads

Video Ruddy-headed Goose


copyright: Laurent Demongin


This species has a very 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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to 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.
This species was once numerous in Tierra del Fuego, but has been driven to the brink of extinction there by man, decimated by the introduction of the Patagonian grey fox and shooting in its winter quarters. The Falklands now hold most of the world population of this attractive little goose, which is classified as Near Threatened by BirdLife International. It is fairly common in the Islands, though less numerous than the Upland Goose. The population was estimated at up to 27,000 pairs in 1997.
Ruddy-headed Goose status Least Concern


In the austral summer, the attractively plumaged Ruddy-headed Goose is confined to southernmost Argentina and Chile, in northern Tierra del Fuego and southern Santa Cruz province, and the Falkland Islands. The mainland population is now tiny, and perhaps numbers just a few hundred birds, at least some of which move north in winter, as far north as Buenos Aires province. Those on the Falklands are resident.

Distribution map

Ruddy-headed Goose distribution range map

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