Magpie geese | Michael Gorey

Magpie geese

I'm told the arrival of magpie geese in Darwin heralds the beginning of the wet season, just as dragonflies are said to be harbingers of the dry.

The birds became conspicuous about a week ago when hundreds began descending on sports ovals around the CBD.

They're less prevalent now. Maybe they were just passing through, or perhaps they found some wetlands to reside in until the rains begin.magpie goose

According to Wikipedia, the magpie goose is a resident breeder in northern Australia and in southern New Guinea. The species was once also widespread in southern Australia, but disappeared from there largely due to the drainage of the wetlands where the birds once bred.

Magpie geese are unmistakable birds with their black and white plumage and yellowish legs. The feet are only partially webbed, and the magpie goose will feed on vegetable matter in the water as well as on land.

I ate meat from a magpie goose earlier this year at Something Wild in Adelaide. It was a special culinary demonstration of native bush tucker.

The magpie goose was one of those caught and shipped to Adelaide by indigenous former AFL player Daniel Motlop.

He spoke to ABC Country Hour this week to say the birds are now commercially available at Something Wild.

The business has permits to capture 4000 birds a year. Dressed at around 1.5 kilograms, they retail for $60.

The meat I sampled in Adelaide was tender, more like red meat than chicken, but with an unmistakable game flavour.

I thik they would be difficult to cook, especially to avoid the end result being tough as a boot.

Aboriginal people have been eating magpie geese for thousands of years. The birds have recently been regarded as a pest by Top End farmers, having diversified their diet to include mangoes.

The idea that they can be sustainably harvested, introducing Australians to a new native meat and creating Aboriginal employment has much merit.

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