Tambopata is a birdwatching paradise. Of the estimated 1861 bird species known to exist in Peru, as of 2015 a total of 648 species had been sighted within the borders of the 3,655,000 acre Tambopata National Reserve. It is the extensive wetland, river and lake systems of the forests we help to protect that make them the ideal refuge for such an enormous number of birds.
The rare Orinoco goose is one of the birds that our eco-lodge guests can hope to see during the ecotourism programs we offer in the forests that we help to conserve. Although often difficult to find, the Orinoco goose (Neochen jubata) is easy to identify. They measure between 60 and 75 centimeters in length (24 to 30 inches) and their pale heads and necks are offset by chestnut-colored flanks and black wings, edged with white plumage. They have red legs, and black and pink bills. Although male birds are larger, the male and female have identical plumage, while their young are duller in color. Females cackle like their cousin, the Egyptian goose, while males emit a high-pitched whistle.
While the Orinoco goose is named after the Orinoco River, one of South America’s longest rivers and the world’s fourth largest river, which flows through Venezuela and Colombia, it’s range is not limited to the Orinoco, and it is not actually a goose!
Although it is called a goose in both English and Spanish (“ganso”) largely because of its heavy-looking way of flying, technically the Orinoco goose is a duck. It is a member of the shelduck family, the biological family of large birds that encompasses most species of duck-like waterfowl.
Although rare, having been the victim of hunting and habitat loss, Orinoco ducks have an extensive natural range. They can be found in the tropical forests of South America from Venezuela in the north, through Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia, down to the forests of southeastern Peru where our own eco-lodge and Private Conservation Area are located. Because Orinoco geese prefer forest lakes or marshland with access to forest or savannah, with their extensive wetland ecosystems the protected forests of Tambopata offer the perfect refuge for this species.
Interestingly, while the Orinoco goose prefers to live in wetland areas, it is rarely spotted swimming. In fact, Orinoco geese prefer to walk rather than swim, and mostly they will only take to the air when forced by circumstance to do so! They tend to roost in tree branches, and to nest in hollow tree cavities, leading a mostly terrestrial existence. They are often seen using their long legs to forage along forest-covered riverbanks, or on the edges of wetlands, where they mostly feed on aquatic plants and insects. During the ecoadventure activities we offer in Tambopata, Orinoco geese are sometimes spotted on river sandbars.
Although it was historically considered a sedentary bird, more recent studies in southeastern Peru and across the border in Brazil have indicated that some populations of Orinoco geese migrate, breeding in the rainforest during the dry season, before flying to savannah areas of Bolivia to see out the rainy season.