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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Kari Pihlaviita, Jouko Lehmuskallio, M., W. & F. von Wright: Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Greylag Goose

Anser anser

  • Family: Waterfowl – Anatidae
  • Appearance: A large grey goose whose upper wing feathers are largely a pale bluish grey. Its beak is fairly large and a uniformly pinkish orange colour.
  • Size: Length 74–84 cm (29–33 in), wingspan 149–168 cm (58–65 in), weight 3–4.2 kg (6.5–9 lb).
  • Nest: Low heap of plant material, lined with feathers and down, with whitish down in the centre of the nest and greyish down around the edge.
  • Breeding: 3–9 eggs (average 4.8) laid from mid April, incubated for 27–29 days. Goslings able to fly within about two months.
  • Distribution: In Finland nests on Baltic islands and seashores. From the end of the 19th century the species’ Finnish population declined steeply due to persecution and disturbance; but since the 1950s numbers have been recovering steadily. Current population estimated at around 3,000–4,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Winters in W and SW Europe. Congregates in flocks from late July for migration in August–Sept. Returns earlier than other geese in spring, largely in April.
  • Diet: Mainly grass, grazed on low grassy islets and shore meadows. Only occasionally feeds in the water, mainly on algae.
  • Calls: A harsh grating honk.

The Greylag is Finland’s largest grey goose species. It has a sturdy beak, which on adults is pinkish orange, though young birds initially have greenish grey beaks that soon turn orange. Their irises are brown. The upper parts of their wings are largely pale bluish grey, which is a good distinguishing feature especially on birds in flight. Adults have dull pinkish legs, but young birds’ legs are greyish.

Greylag Geese fly with quite leisurely wing-beats and swim with their tails raised (though not as high as Bean Geese). Migrating flocks, typically of up to 30–40 birds, fly in V-shaped skeins or uneven rows. They moult in summer, losing their wing feathers for a brief period (2–3 weeks) during which they are almost flightless, and consequently shy and retiring. If surprised by a predator, a moulting bird will lower its neck to ground level to hide, or swim so deep in the water that only its head remains visible.

The Greylag Goose is believed to be the wild ancestor of domesticated geese.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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