British Waterfowl Association

Kelp Goose

Kelp Goose with young
Kelp Goose (Falkland) with young — Morag Jones

There are two subspecies of Kelp Goose recognised:

  • Lesser or Patagonian Kelp Goose C. h. hybrida 
  • Greater or Falkland Kelp Goose C. h. malvinarum

The nominate race occurs in South America, along the coasts of Chile, Tierra del Fuego and Argentina, while the slightly larger malvinarum is a resident of the Falkland Islands.

Female Kelp Goose
Female Kelp Goose (Falkland) — Frank Todd
Kelp Goose pair
Kelp Goose pair at Blackbrook Zoological Park — Jonathan Beilby

Chloephaga hybrida

An unmistakeable sheldgoose of the South Atlantic seashore, the Kelp Goose is a common and conspicuous resident of the rocky beaches of the Falkland Islands and southern South America. No member of the Anatidae displays more distinctive sexual dimorphism than this, for an adult gander is totally white, though with black beak and yellow legs. In contrast, the goose’s sooty plumage contrasts sharply with her white tail and rear body, with attractive white barring on her flanks.

Female Kelp Goose eating sea lettuce
Female Kelp Goose (Falkland) — Frank Todd

Despite their name, the giant bull kelp is not on the menu for Kelp Geese. They far prefer to graze on sea lettuce (above), red marine algae and aquatic vegetation at low tide. Kelp Geese form lifelong pair bonds, and are usually seen in pairs or family groups grazing among the kelp. Here they are invariably confiding and easy to approach, they have no history of being hunted by man as they are generally regarded as being inedible.

Kelp Goose pair
Kelp Goose pair (Falkland) — Alan Henry
Kelp Geese grazing
Kelp Geese (Falkland) — Morag Jones

Ring Size


This size is only a guide. Please read more about ringing here.

The Kelp Goose lays her clutch of 5-7 eggs close to the high-tide line. She alone incubates for 30 days. Because of their specialised maritime habitat, these geese are difficult to acclimatise in captivity and few have ever been kept long-term in collections. At present numbers are exceptionally low in Europe. They are especially prone to a number of diseases, most notably Aspergillosis.