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Murder on Hampstead Heath: Egyptian goose kills longstanding male and tries to steal mate

PUBLISHED: 14:48 16 January 2019

A new Egyptian goose killed the longstanding male and shacked up with the remaining female. Picture: Ron Vester

A new Egyptian goose killed the longstanding male and shacked up with the remaining female. Picture: Ron Vester

Archant

A pair of Egyptian geese have been living blissfully at Kenwood Pond on the Heath for many years.

Egyptian geese have been a feature on the Heath for a decade. Picture: Ron VesterEgyptian geese have been a feature on the Heath for a decade. Picture: Ron Vester

But recently their lives were ripped apart by a territorial battle between the resident male and an intruder, who returned for a second assault having been chased off earlier in the summer.

Things took a fateful turn when the intruder attacked the male. A bitter fight ended brutally, with the resident male killed and drowned in the pond below Kenwood House.

A witness tried to retrieve the body – to no avail – and it sank beneath the cold waters.

The intruder has been seen trying to take over the widow. She seems disillusioned, staring out into the pond, and is heard crying out from high up in a tree nearby – but her mate of many years will not be returning to her.

The Egyptian goose which has been killed by a younger rival. Picture: Ron VesterThe Egyptian goose which has been killed by a younger rival. Picture: Ron Vester

The original pair had mated for at least seven seasons and produced up to seven goslings a year. The male was a good father, protecting his young from aggressive dogs, and he would rush his family into the safety of the pond waters.

When the goslings grew up, he and his mate he would fly them around, including to Highgate Boat Pond, until they resettled in new pastures.

Egyptian geese were considered sacred by Ancient Egyptians. The birds arrived here in the 17th century and have a life span of some 15 years, unless raised in captivity.

A year ago the resident pair were caught in a less traditional drama: another photographer described to me an incident where the now-deceased male goose took exception to a drone flying near to his family.

The drone hovered near the nest and the male took off, crashing into the drone from above and sending it spinning into the water. Afterwards, I visited the bird, who had received scrapes on his leg in his mechanical conquest.

Male and female Egyptian geese look alike, except in size, but can be identified by their calls – the male hisses, while the female makes a throatier “haa-haa” sound.The pair had survived the best part of a decade until this summer when on that fateful day a younger but stronger adult – who could perhaps even be one of their own goslings from years gone by – returned to enact a bloody and hostile takeover.

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