The pink-footed goose is a medium-sized goose that breeds in eastern Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard. Populations have increased in the last 50 years mainly due to protection from shooting on wintering grounds. From the second half of the 19th century they began to move inland from their traditional winter habitat of saltmarshes to feed on farmland. This led to illegal persecution from farmers due to the impact on crops but in recent years conservation efforts have succeeded in managing the large flocks that visit without resorting to culing.
Length: 60 – 76 cm
Wingspan: 135 – 160 cm
Weight: 2.2 – 2.7 kg
Adult pink-footed geese have a pale grey-brown body with a white belly, vent, and rump. The tail is grey with a broad white terminal band. The flight feathers are dark grey and the wing coverts are pale slate-grey. Their flanks are dark brown with darker brown and black vertical streaks and a white line on the upper flanks.
The head and upper neck is dark brown and the bill is pink with a black tip and base. They have dark brown eyes and pink legs and webbed feet.
Both sexes have similar plumage but the male is larger than the female.
Juvenile pink-footed geese resemble the adult but they are browner and smaller with a scaly pattern on the upperparts. The bill and legs are duller and sometimes yellow in colour.
Pink-footed geese breed in May and June in small loose colonies of about 10 pairs. They nest on cliffs and lake islets and the nest is a scrape in the ground lined with soft plant matter and down.
Pink-footed geese lay 3-6 pale green or yellow eggs which are incubated by the female alone for 25-28 days. The male will guard at some distance.
Chicks are precocial and covered in brown and yellow down and are reared by both parents. They fledge at about 50-60 days after hatching and are sexually mature at 3 years.
Pink footed geese feed on plant matter such as leaves, stems, berries, seeds, moss, sedges, and lichen. During winter they will also eat grain, vegetables, grasses, cereals, and potatoes.
Where to see them
Pink footed geese arrive for the winter in September and leave in April. They can be found in estuaries, on the east Scottish coast and the north and east of England. They can also be spotted on farmland where they go to feed during the day.
Did you know?
Pink-footed geese have a large carbon footprint due to them digging the soil in the Arctic in search of food which releases carbon from the ground.