These arctic specialists come together in huge grazing flocks up to 60,000 strong
What you need to know about the Pink-footed Goose
Our Expert Says… "These geese are very aggressive when they are nesting, and will happily try and attack foxes and even humans who come too close! This aggressive nature and the loud honking that accompanies it means that domesticated geese make excellent guardians and were used by the Romans in this way."
The pink-footed goose in an arctic breeding bird. Although a single species, there are two distinct populations. One is found in the east of Greenland and on Iceland, the other is on Svalbard. Each population has different wintering grounds, with the western pink-footed geese heading for the UK and Ireland, and the eastern population overwintering in the Netherlands and Denmark.
A medium-sized goose species, pink-footed geese grow to about 75cm (30”) long with a 1.8m (6ft) wingspan. They can weigh more than 3kg (7lb). The populations of pink-footed geese have grown well over the past half-century thanks to protection from hunting. Because they flock in very large numbers in winter (up to 60,000 individuals) they were easy targets. It is thought numbers have increased up to 200% since protections were put in place.
In their arctic breeding grounds the pink-footed goose nests away from its main predators (including the arctic fox). This means they use cliffs near glaciers or islands in the middle of lakes. They lay between 3 and 6 eggs in May each year, and chicks fledge in September, The birds then begin their southerly migrations, returning to the breeding grounds the following April/May.
Pink-footed geese are vegetarians, grazing on tundra plants and water species in the summer. In winter they graze on the remains of harvested crops including potato, oilseed rape, and sugar beet as well as grasses. It’s because of the potential for crop damage that the birds were often hunted in winter.