Scientific name: Anser anser
Status: Resident wild and feral populations, winter visitor.
Breeding birds: 46,000 pairs
UK wintering birds: 140,000 British birds and 88,000 from Iceland
Conservation status: Amber
Length: 76 – 90 cm
Wingspan: 147 – 180 cm
Weight: 2.9 – 1.4 kg
Adult greylag geese are bulky with grey-brown plumage. They have creamy-white edges on their upperparts, black flight feathers, and a rounded white tail with one black bar.
Their underparts are pale brown with fine grey spots and blotches. They have brown flanks with pale edges, white underwings with darker flight feathers, and their belly and undertail coverts are white.
Greylag geese have a grey brown head and neck with a distinctive concertina pattern, and dark brown eyes with an orange or pink eyering. Their bill, legs, and feet are orange.
Males and females are similar, although males are usually slightly larger.
Juvenile greylag geese have duller plumage, less speckling on their breast and belly, and grey legs.
Greylag geese breed from March to April in loose colonies. Both adults build the nest which is on the ground concealed amongst reed beds or in trees. It is a shallow cup made from reed stems and grass and lined with down.
Greylag geese lay 4-6 eggs which are incubated by the female for 27-28 days while the male remains on guard nearby. The chicks are precocial but cared for by both parents. They fledge at about 50-60 days after hatching and reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years.
Greylag geese eat mostly plant matter such as grass, leaves, roots, stems, and fruits. In the winter it will also eat grain and vegetables.
Where to see them
Greylag geese can be seen all year round in the UK. They are found in lowland areas, parks, grassy fields, and river valleys. They are more numerous from September to April when they are joined by winter visitors in the north.
Did you know?
The greylag goose was one of the first species of animals to be domesticated in Ancient Egypt about 3000 years ago. The domestic breed is known as A. a. domesticus and is able to interbreed with Anser anser.