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Conservation status: Least concern
| Western Greylag Goose (Anser anser anser)|
Western Greylag Goose (Anser anser anser)
| Anser anser|
It was in pre-Linnean times known as the Wild Goose ("Anser ferus"). This species is the ancestor of domesticated geese in Europe and North America. Flocks of feral birds derived from domesticated birds are widespread.
The Greylag Goose is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The Greylag is a large goose, 74–84 cm (29–33 in) long with a 149–168 cm (59–66 in) wingspan and a body weight of 2.3–5.5 kg (5–12 lbs). It has a large head and almost triangular bill. The legs are pink, and the bird is easily identified in flight by the pale leading edge to the wing. It has a loud cackling call, kiYAAA-ga-ga, like the domestic goose.
The western European nominate subspecies, A. a. anser, has an orange-pink bill and is slightly smaller and darker than the pink-billed Asian race, A. a. rubrirostris. Eastern European birds are often intermediate in appearance.
Distribution and habitatEdit
This species is found throughout the Old World, apparently breeding where suitable localities are to be found in many European countries, although it no longer breeds in southwestern Europe. Eastwards it extends across Asia to China.
The geese are migratory, moving south or west in winter, but Scottish breeders, some other populations in northwestern Europe, and feral flocks are largely resident. This species is one of the last to migrate. One theory on the etymology of the name (American Heritage Dictionary) is that "-lag" derives from this "lagging behind", although the Oxford English Dictionary analyses "-lag" as a dialectical word for "goose", of unknown origin.
In Great Britain their numbers have declined as a breeding bird, retreating north to breed wild only in the Outer Hebrides and the northern mainland of Scotland. However during the 20th century, feral populations have been established elsewhere, and they have now re-colonised much of England. The breeding habitat is a variety of wetlands including marshes, lakes, and damp heather moors.
In Norway, the number of greylag geese is estimated to have increased three- to fivefold during the last 15-20 years. As a consequence, farmers' problems caused by goose grazing on farmland has increased considerably. This problem is also evident for the pink-footed goose.
In North America, small populations of Greylag Geese descended from domesticated geese have become established, mostly in city parks and near humans. These geese usually exist as part of larger flocks of Canada Geese. The Greylag Goose can hybridize with the native Canada Goose, producing birds which can be puzzling to birders attempting to identify them.
As for wild Greylag from Europe, it has recently been determined that at least one wild Greylag has visited North America. One bird was found alive on a stationary ship in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador from spring, 2005.
Notes and referencesEdit
- BirdLife International (2004). Anser anser. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006.
Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Strong increase in the number of greylag goose in Norway (PDF, in Norwegian, by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research)
- RSPB A to Z of UK Birds
- Greylag Goose videos on the Internet Bird Collection
- Confusing Domestic Geese - An article about Greylag geese in North America, with photos
- the Greylag Goose in the Oostvaardersplassen - An article about the Greylag Goose population in nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen, the Netherlands
- Greylag Goose pictures Wildlife Greylag Goose photos- adult with nestlings and voice
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