First, some background. The South American geese of the genus Chloephaga make up a very distinctive group, apparently not closely related to the well-known geese of the northern hemisphere. They are fantastically patterned birds, and in some the females and males are strikingly different in appearance.
For example, above is the male Upland Goose, from Saunders Island ...
And here is the female of the same species.
In the afternoon of January 9 on Carcass Island we had our best close studies of another goose in this group, the Kelp Goose. This all-white bird is the male. Sort of blah, right? Just another white bird. Looks kind of like a barnyard duck.
Now here are the male and female Kelp Goose together. The bland male is totally upstaged by the classy female -- she is elegantly marked with white patterning on deepest chocolate-black.
In fact, the female Kelp Goose is one of my favorite bird plumages in the world. There’s just something about that pattern that makes me want to get out my sketch books and pencils and paints, to have an excuse to just study that pattern.
Here’s another portrait of the female Kelp Goose. I would go out on a limb and say that this was the second-most-beautiful female that I saw on the whole trip. (Obviously, THE most beautiful female was Kim.) True to their name, Kelp Geese are most numerous right along the shoreline, among the rocks and the kelp washed up at the high tide mark. We had seen them in Tierra del Fuego also, even right along the waterfront in the city of Ushuaia, but the Falklands gave us our closest views.