The water-loving, herbivorous ducks and geese are quite an ancient group that reaches back to the Late Cretaceous. After their inception these fowl spread quickly across the surface of both our worlds and can now be found on every continent but Antarctica. For the most part, specworld anseriforms resemble their Home-Earth counterparts, but some interesting distinctions can be drawn.
ANATIDAE (Regular Ducks)
You know, regular ol' ducks and geese. However, there are a few species of ducks and geese that are not found back on Home Earth, but they can be found exclusively to the world of Spec.
Daffy Duck (p-Anas nigra)
Spec's equivalent to the Mallard. Distributed across most of the northern hemisphere of North America and Eurasia, these subspecies are distinguished by number of rings on the neck (which ranges from 1-4) and/or color of bill (orange, yellow, white). On a similar note, this species is known for distributing a call which sounds like "yooooooor-dithpicabull!" The call reminded its discoverers of the cartoon character Daffy Duck, hence the name.
The giganatids are whopping great flightless anseriforms endemic to Aoteroa. Flightless insular ducks and geese are not new and have evolved multiple times on Home-Earth (including our timeline's New Zealand). However, with the notable exception of the dromornithids and gastornithids, few have reached the prodigious size and sheer weirdness of the giganatids, the major group of terrestrial herbivores on Spec's Aotearoa. These massive, flightless ducks appear to be the descendants of basal flying anseriforms and are closely allied to the anseranatids and anhimids (Australia's magpie geese and South America's screamers).
The plumage of most gigaducks has become hair-like and shaggy whilst the wings have been reduced to stubby, almost useless vestiges. Most species have long, graceful necks and strengthened neck vertebrae, allowing their heads to be raised far above their body. Gigaducks also have a therizinosaur-like pot belly, the result of a very long gut and large gizzard. Their feet have lost all trace of webbing, though most species walk in the characteristic duck-waddle when on the move. About a dozen species roam across the larger islands of Aotearoa, ranging in size from small, grouse-like forms to enormous giraffe-like browsers.
Lawnmoa (Giganas montanus)
The strikingly marked lawnmoas (Giganas montanus) are denizens of alpine grassland where they live in pairs or small flocks. Relentlessly, they crop the grass with their square-tipped bills that make the mountainsides almost look like a freshly mowed lawn. The putting-green-like atmosphere is, however, somewhat spoiled by the numerous piles of rank smelling poo produced by the lawnmoas.
Big Yellow Gigaduck (Megalornis sesameiensis)
The big yellow gigaduck is the tallest avian on Specworld and the largest terrestrial animal in Aotearoa. These enormous birds, which can weigh in at nearly half a metric ton, slowly plod through the forests of South Island, methodically plucking leaves and fruit. They are generally found as mated pairs or small family groups, keeping in touch with loud and disturbingly Gojira-like bellows and bleats ("Aiiiiiiiuuuurrrrrrgh!!!"). Their size renders the adult big yellows practically immune to attack, but infant mortality is high. A slightly smaller species, the big white gigaduck (Megalornis albus), lives on North Island.
Disco Duck (Ludicrus cleesei)
Watching this gangly creature, with its bright-pink splayed limbs, long slender neck and bold coloration, one cannot help but feel that there is something distinctly wrong with the disco duck (Ludicrus cleesei). Appearing to be a hasty "garage-kit" attempt by the Anseriformes to produce an fast antilopine herbivore, the disco duck combines the long legs of a runner with a duck's waddling gait and its nomenclatural link to the Minister of Silly Walks is no coincidence.
Discoes form flocks of up to 30 birds in lowland woods and grasslands. They feed on a wide range of vegetation including grasses, leaves and berries. They are the most sexually dimorphic of the gigaducks, with the males possessing more ornate head crests and bright yellow ceres. Unlike other gigaducks, they are polygamous breeders. The males attempt to entice mates with a striking dance routine that has led to their common name.
When pursued, the disco simply picks up the pace of its usual "silly walking". The lower legs frantically rotate in a flurry of pink as the rest of the body jiggles and bounces with each step save for the head and the neck weaving to and fro to maintain its position in space. All this activity is accompanied by the birds' loud, whooping alarm call. The result is, appropriately enough, ludicrous, but a disco running at full speed is quite capable of outpacing a human or a spectacled gobbler, the species' primary predator.
These are the primary scavengers of Spec's old world. Soaring above the plains and woodlands, they eagerly sight out carcasses for consumption. Gorgeese have developed the typical scavenging bird profile. The naked heads and necks prevent fouling infections as they probe deep inside carcasses. They have heavy-loading wings for hours of energy-efficient soaring. By most standards, gorgeese are quite indistinguishable from HE vultures. The most obvious exception is the superficial anseriforme appearance of the hooked beak. The bill is far less pneumaticised than wading ducks. Strongly reinforced for ripping open carcasses and narrowed to reach into the viscera. Interestingly, it is lined with fine, sharp serrations. This is most likely to further enhance the tearing of the hooked beak into the corpse; giving the gorgeese a decided edge over the weaker, non-serrated bills of rocs. One other very surprising characteristic of gorgeese is their body odor. The smell is often overpowering when excited, but it's not a rude, skunky scent; quite the opposite, they smell of spices and perfume. Most gorgeese are described by their alluring scents alone. The naming scheme is unprecedented in HE, even though many of OTL vultures have a pleasant funk. The difference is that gorgeese have retained and liberally apply their heavy anseriforme oil glands onto their feathers. During moments of excitement, such as jostling at a carcass, the glands release even more of the scented grease, causing the gorgeese to vigorously rub it into their coats. This results in a spray of incredibly heavy aromas, believed to drive off parasites and suppress microbial infections. This possibly could also be a deterrent for fellow scavengers. The presence of several gorgeese in a perfumed frenzy has been known to hold back even quite large predators such as saber tyrants and moloks, at least temporarily. Old-world carrion sites quickly become a riot of spices spiking the air. The aroma often is compared to a winter holiday feast, a spice island or a flower bed, if a slaughter house was nearby.
The earliest definitive gorgoose is †Inferanas cadaviperidis, an Oligocene taxon. Some possible fragmentary remains from Eocene beds in Asia have been found but not yet described due to their still indeterminate identification. Gorgeese fossils after the Oligocene are fairly spotty, with several Pleistocene fossils and plenty of sub fossil Holocene remains of Gypanas sp. and most others scattered in the old world. The saffron gorgoose †Placentiavoros is the sole exception for which only recent remains of a sub-adult killed by a golden flanker are known. Surprisingly, this largely old world clade has a purported Oligocene partial cranium in South America the same age as old world Inferanas. Should this be verified it would put an interesting twist on an already fascinating clade. Currently, they are regarded as a sister clade to all other anseriformes, with new work that seems to indicate they might form a distinct grouping with the Spec pseudodontorns. Whatever their origins, all modern gorgeese are old world in distribution with the exception of a single population of citrus gorgeese Necroanas citreus seasonally present in Alaska via southern Japan.
Gorgeese are typically socially monogamous, breeding once a year in some species to once every few years in others. The newly mature gorgeese gather in communal leks, with males and females honking and scenting the air with their passionate excitement. Ritualized dances and calls are complimented with vigorous oil rubbing, releasing a bounty of lavish, heady scent. Being by a gorgoose lek is one of the safest experiences one can have in Spec. The sheer overwhelming odor, while pleasant to humans with strong stomachs, causes most animals with a more delicate olfactory apparatus, which includes everything that could threaten humans in the Old World and Alaska to keep a several mile radius. The young gorgeese eventually pair up after hours, if not days of courtship. These will be their mates for life. One or two eggs is the usual norm, with the saffron gorgoose unusually having as many as six. The chicks are lavishly cared for, growing to adult size within three to six months. Maturity is not attained for another 2 to as much as 7 years. The chicks often stay with their parents for years as helpers. This allows them to both gain experience for raising their own offspring and learn the social hierarchy of their scavenging lifestyle.
Another attribute of gorgeese is their seeming intellect. All gorgeese have complex social lives and even engage in play behavior well past childhood. Eurasian gorgeese have been observed teasing roosts of near-crows by diving to a low altitude from afar and gliding to the colony unnoticed. They suddenly announce themselves with loud croaking honks, driving the roost into total confusion. One spexplorer had this to say about it, “they sure do look damned pleased with themselves".Like HE turkey vultures, gorgeese almost never kill their own food, having been known to inquisitively play with xenos in their nests by grabbing the tail and watching them try to scurry like mad before letting them go. Further study in this area is desperately needed.
Eurasian Gorgoose (Necroanas aumalae)
This was one of the first described gorgoose. A summer breeder as far north as the edges of the Eurasian taiga, they winter in Africa and India. The neck is feathered half-way to the head, which is naked with red wattles abundantly covering it rather like HE muscovy ducks. The informal local name of kalma is somewhat misleading as the gorgoose has been said to have the aroma of lilac, or sometimes passion fruit and cream.
Cinnamon Gorgoose (Gypanas cinnamum)
Soaring the African skies on +3 m wings, cinnamon gorgeese are an impressive sight. The huge, very deep bill with visible serrations allows for even the toughest grassbag and saurolope hides to submit to the slashing strokes. Many gorgeese and adjutant rocs must await the coming of this titan to open up the carcasses. The cinnamon scented gorgoose mates for life at sexual maturity, reached at 7 years of age, and breeds every 2 to 4 years. This is speculated to be a very long-lived species, possibly reaching ages of +60 years.
Germanic Gorgoose (Cathartanas asperabrassicae)
A largely central European gorgoose that winters in the Mediterranean. Also know as sour duck or more rarely, sauerkraut`n' beer goose, it is definitely an acquired aroma. Lovers of pickled cabbage will enjoy the scent wafting off a venue of squabbling sour ducks at their communal roosts. Gorgeese use their sense of smell as well as sight to hunt out carcasses. Germanic gorgeese are believed to have an especially acute sense of smell. The sour duck's olfactory capabilities is said to rival that of HE's turkey vulture. Germanic gorgeese soar over dense forests, looking and scenting for deceased animals.
Lavender Gorgoose (Palmagypoanas lavandua)
Also know as the heaven-scent. This gorgoose indeed smells like sweet, gentle lavender. The most interesting aspect of this bird is the fully feathered neck and head. Feeding on the nuts of oily palms (Specelaeis sp.) does not engender the same risks of fouling as probing rotting innards does. The gorgoose also will crack open abandoned or neglected eggs with its ripping beak, or use a heavy stone for the tough cases.
Saffron Gorgoose (Placentiavoros safranum)
Breeding in the high tibetian plateaus, this gorgoose is one of the few carrion eaters on Spec to routinely engage in a behavior common among scavengers in HE, eating derived eutherian placentas. The sources are the herds of montane steppe spelks. Unlike their forest dwelling cousins, the twin offspring are born ready to move with their mother in hours.This leaves ample numbers of unattended placentas for the saffron gorgoose to consume during the spring breeding season. Males court their potential wives with offerings of afterbirth, showing her that they can provide. The spelk calving season on the exposed steppes lasts roughly four weeks. Saffron gorgeese patiently pace the spelk herds like ghastly midwives. The result is a clutch of large eggs numbering two to three, sometimes up to six. The rest of the summer is spent seeking more typical carrion. The quick growing young follow their parents south into sundaland in autumn.
,=Megalornis sesameiensis (Big yellow gigaduck) ,=Megalornis=| ,=| `=Megalornis albus (Big white gigaduck) | | =Anseriformes=| `=Giganas montanus (Lawnmoa) | `=Ludicrus cleesei (Disco duck)