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Pink-footed Geese number decline!

Survey results recently published by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) reveal that the population of  Pink-footed Geese may have dropped by around 100,000 in just the last two years. The majority of the world's Pink-footed Geese winter in the UK, having bred in Iceland and Greenland. They arrive in large numbers from their breeding grounds this month and conservationists will be counting them at roosts, mainly in Norfolk, Lancashire and Scotland, to see whether their fortunes have bounced back. Though the population is still estimated to be at least 250,000, and was once as low as 30,000 in the 1950s, the apparent drop of more than a quarter between 2009 and 2011 is possibly an early warning of changing fortunes.

Pink-footed Goose

The Pink-footed Goose - Anser brachyrhynchus - is a goose which breeds in eastern Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard. It is miratory, wintering in northwest Europe, especially Great Britain, the Netherlands and western Denmark. There are two largely discrete populations of Pink-footed Goose. The Greenland and Iceland population winter in Great Britain, while the Svalbard population winters in the Netherlands and Denmark. Southbound migration is from mid September to early October, and northbound from mid April to early May.


It has a short bill, bright pink in the middle with a black base and tip, and pink feet. The body is mid grey-brown, the head and neck a richer, darker brown, the rump and vent white, and the tail grey with a broad white tip. The upper wing-coverts are pale bluish-grey and the flight feathers blackish-grey.


A high-pitched honking call, being particularly vocal in flight.


The diet is almost entirely vegetarian. In summer, they feed on a wide range of tundra plants, both on land and in water. In winter, they graze primarily on oilseed rape, sugar beet, potato and various grasses.


Nesting is often on cliffs close to glaciers to provide protection from predators [mainly the Arctic Fox], also on islets in lakes. Three to six eggs are laid in early to mid May in Iceland, late May in Svalbard, with incubation lasting 26–27 days. On hatching, the goslings accompany the parents on foot to the nearest lake, where they fledge after about 56 days.

Conservation Status – Least concern

Populations have risen spectacularly over the last 50 years, due largely to increased protection from shooting on the wintering grounds. Numbers wintering in Great Britain have risen almost tenfold from 30,000 in 1950 to 292,000 in October 2004. The numbers wintering in Denmark and the Netherlands have also risen.


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