Greylag Goose

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Common Name: Greylag Goose
Scientific Name: Anser anser

Size: 29-36 inches (74-91 cm); Wingspan: 16--19 inches (41-48 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia; found throughout Eurasia, 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. In North America, there are both feral domestic geese, which are similar to greylags, and occasional vagrants. The greylag goose has been introduced into Australia. This species is fully migratory although some populations in temperate regions are only sedentary or locally dispersive.

During the breeding season the species inhabits wetlands surrounded by fringing vegetation in open grassland, sedge or heather moorland, arctic tundra, steppe or semi-desert from sea-level up to 2,300 m. It nests near streams, saltmarshes, river flood-plains, reedy marshes, grassy bogs, damp meadows, reed-lined freshwater lakes and estuaries close to potential feeding sites such as meadows, grasslands, stubble fields and newly sown cereal fields. It requires isolated islands in lakes or on along the coast out of reach of land predators for nesting. In the autumn (before migration) the species also frequents agricultural land (e.g. sugar-beet, maize and cereal fields). Non-breeding In the winter the species inhabits lowland farmland in open country, swamps lakes reservoirs coastal lagoons and estuaries.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 1,000,000-1,100,000 adult individuals. This species is threatened by considerable hunting pressures across much of its range and is susceptible to poisoning from lead shot ingestion. It is also persecuted by farmers as it can cause considerable crop damage. The destruction and degradation of wetland habitats due to drainage, conversion to, petroleum pollution, peat-extraction, changing wetland management practices and the burning and mowing of reeds is also a threat, especially in breeding areas.

The greylag goose is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Diet: Herbivorous; its diet consisting of grass, the roots, shoots, leaves, stems, seed heads and fruits of other herbaceous marsh vegetation, aquatic plants, and agricultural grain and potatoes. The species is highly gregarious.

Nesting: Sexes are alike. It has a rotund, bulky body, a thick and long neck, and a large head and bill. It has pink legs and feet, and an orange or pink bill. Males are generally larger than females, with the sexual dimorphism more pronounced in the eastern subspecies rubirostris, which is larger than the nominate subspecies on average.

The plumage of the greylag goose is greyish-brown, with a darker head and paler belly with variable black spots. Its plumage is patterned by the pale fringes of its feathers. It has a white line bordering its upper flanks. Its coverts are lightly colored, contrasting with its darker flight feathers. Juveniles differ mostly in their lack of a black-speckled belly.[

The nest is a shallow construction of plant matter placed among reed beds, on the ground, in or at the base of trees, under bushes or in sheltered hollows on isolated wooded islands on lakes or along coasts, as well as on rafts of vegetation in rivers. Although the species is only semi-colonial, nests may be concentrated within a small area.

Cool Facts: The greylag goose is most notable as being the bird with which the ethologist Konrad Lorenz first did his major studying into the behavioral phenomenon of imprinting.

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 is the largest and bulkiest of the grey geese of the genus Anser.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume 4: Geese, Loons, Grebes & Coots

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