Pink-footed Goose

Anser brachyrhynchus

60-75cm

Appearance

The most distinctive feature of this bird is its pink legs and feet. Its head is darker and rounder and its body greyer than the Bean Goose, and it is a slightly smaller bird. The dark head and neck grade to grey-brown on the breast and belly, and the pale edges of its back feathers give a barred effect. Its undercarriage is also closely barred and there's a white line on its torso just below the wings. When it flies, the forewing is a blue-grey, and a generous amount of white is visible on the tail. Juveniles are darker with yellowish legs and barring that is less defined.

Habitat

These birds have a preference for stubble fields and permanent grassland. They roost on estuaries or large bodies of fresh water, mudflats, moorland pools and floodwater and typically winter in hilly areas, moors and mosses as well as lowland marshes.

Character

The Pink-footed Goose most often forms single species flocks; it's a sociable bird except when nesting. Winter flocks contain up to 40 000 birds which mainly consist of family groups. The flocks transit from night time roosts to their feeding areas at dawn, then travel back again at dusk. Feeding flocks travel up to 30km and birds are known to use the same roosts and feeding areas year after year. The route also includes places for the flock to rest, on grasslands or marshland pools. When the young are 10-20 days old, different family groups unite to moult and form big, flightless flocks. This goose has a way of tumbling out of flight when descending in order to quicken the process of landing.

Food

This goose eats vegetable matter including grain, grass, cereals and root crops such as sugar beet. Summer diet includes leaves and shoots, roots and fruits, especially bistort, horsetails and cotton grass.

Breeding

The bond between pairs usually lasts a lifetime. Both parents tend their young and the families remain together in the first winter, then disperse at the next nesting season.

Population

This goose is a common winter visitor, travelling mostly from breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland. Flocks arrive during October and return north in April, and majority of them can be found from East Anglia and Lancashire north to eastern Scotland. Each winter, over 100 000 birds visit; this is about 75% of the world population.

Observation Tips

This bird is usually simple to observe due to its traditional wintering grounds such as the north Norfolk coast (particularly around Holkham), the Lancashire coast, the Solway Firth and much of southeast Scotland. Only a small number of Pink-footed Geese travel to Ireland. Skeins of the birds transiting between roosts to feeding grounds are a visual and auditory spectacle not to be missed in British birdwatching.

Voice

With higher-pitched vocals than other geese, this bird omits a repetitive, nasal cackle: 'wink, wink'.
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