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 Pink-footed Goose - Fact File
Pink-footed Goose
Anser brachyrhynchus
Winter visitor. Largest numbers found in S/E Scotland, with smaller numbers in N/W England and around the Wash and East Anglia.
Mudflats, lakes, fields with stubble and root crops.

Smallish goose with small stubby bill and rounded head giving distinctive profile.

60 - 75 cm (24 - 30")

Pink-footed Goose

Recent ornithological events on the lower Bure marshes, near Yarmouth, have reminded me of my earliest bird-watching days. Written half a century ago, my diaries have revived memories of the first occasion I entered the tumble-down marsh farmhouse known as the Haunted House.

After climbing the rickety staircase, I obtained superb views through a window of several hundred pink-footed geese. The nearest were only a few yards away. Most were grazing, others preening and splashing in rainwater pools.

Rival ganders chased one another with necks lowered and wings spread. And at intervals small parties took wing before landing again a short distance away. Eventually the whole company was disturbed by low-flying aircraft. The majority headed seaward; but others were content to continue feeding half a mile distant.

At the time, although in decline, pink-feet continued wintering in east Norfolk. Scroby Sandbank was the favoured roost-site although in times of dense fog or gale-force winds, the night was spent either in an isolated marsh or on Breydon estuary.

I never expected these magical winter visitors to return to this part of Broadland. However, during recent weeks the clock has turned back decades and to my delight thousands of pink-feet have taken up temporary residence on the Bure levels.

The pink-footed geese wintering in Britain breed in Iceland and East Greenland. Egg-laying commences in mid-May. Favoured nest sites are snow-free hummocks and banks safely above post-thaw floods.

Other birds favour nesting on river gorge cliffs and the tops of rock pinnacles in gorges. Nests may be as close as 15ft apart. The same nest sites are often used year after year. Some sites are thought to be 40 years old.

The young geese remain with their parents throughout the first autumn and winter, migrating together in the spring. Another population of pink-feet breeding in Spitsbergen is concentrated in winter in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. Maybe the geese appearing recently in south-east Norfolk have crossed the North Sea from Holland?

Often goose concentrations contain strangers. Towering above the pink-feet visiting north-west Norfolk last winter was a white, or snow phase, greater snow goose. No doubt this was the example which appeared in Lancashire, again with pink-feet, earlier that winter. But the splendid Arctic goose is popular in waterfowl collections. Most vagrants appearing in Europe are thought to be "escapes" but wild greater snows certainly occur, especially in Iceland and Ireland

By Michael J. Seago

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.