Egyptian Geese Visit

Waterfowl make home at Cheat Lake marina

Morgantown Dominion Post
26 July 2012

A pair of Egyptian geese (alopochen aegyptiacus) have taken up residence at the Sunset Beach Marina on Cheat Lake. The distinctive chocolate-colored eyepatch makes them stand out from the other, more common waterfowl of the area. 
Bob Gay/The Dominion Post

Two waterfowl at Sunset Beach Marina are turning heads. They are a pair of Egyptian geese, colorful birds that aren’t native to West Virginia.

“They have been here since I started working in April,” said Ben Ray, an employee at Sunset Beach Marina.

“If I toss them some Fritos, they will hang around all day,” Ray said. “The bigger one, the male, gets pretty feisty if you get too close.”

Morgantown resident Susan Robison said her brother, Kevin Humphreys, a former zoo keeper in Norfolk, Va., identified the species as Egyptian geese after they saw them at the marina.

The colorful plumage of the Egyptian geese contains a wide mix of brown and gray tones.  Bob Gay/The Dominion Post

“My brother said they mate for life. The strange part of all of this is, where did they come from? The Egyptian goose is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is native to Africa, south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley, and has been introduced to parts of Western Europe — not Morgantown, W.Va.”

Susan Olcott, District 1 diversity biologist with the state Division of Natural Resources, said many people keep exotic waterfowl as curiosities. People sometimes put the birds on their ponds, snipping their feathers to keep them from flying away.

But, if the snipping isn’t done properly, the feathers will regrow and the birds can fly again, Olcott said. Someone may also have tired of them and set them free, she speculated.

She was unsure if the birds would be able to survive a West Virginia winter but said Cheat Lake would be a good place for them, because people will likely feed them.

If they do, it might bring luck. According to Robison, “Upon doing some additional research, I also found Egyptian geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork.”