Kingdoms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Anseriformes / Anatidae / Anser / Species
< >  Anser anser - Greylag goose (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

EXTERNAL APPEARANCES

REPRODUCTION

BEHAVIOUR

NATURAL DIET

RANGE & HABITAT

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Graylag Goose
Grey-lag Goose
Gray-lag Goose
Grey Lag Goose
Grey Goose
Gray Goose
Graugans (German)
Oie cendrée (French)
Ansar (Spanish)
Ansar común (Spanish)
Grauwe Gans (Dutch)
Grågåns (Swedish)
Western Greylag Goose (Anser anser anser)
Eastern Greylag Goose (Anser anser rubrirostris)
Anser cinereus

Names for newly-hatched

Gosling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases

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References

Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B4, B8, B19, B25, B26, B27.

Other references:
B138

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B31, B40, B94, B95, B97, B108, B128.w1, B129
D1, D8

ORGANISATIONS
(UK Contacts)

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information

Notes

General information:
  • Northern (True) Geese are generally hardy and easy to manage. They are usually gregarious and many species may be kept in flocks, however they tend to be territorial and aggressive in the breeding season and some may need to be maintained in separate pens. It is often possible to keep small ducks with pairs of geese, unless the individual goose pair is particularly pugnacious. They should always be provided with adequate water for swimming.
  • For a single pair of geese a total pen area of 300m² (or 200m²  for smaller species, e.g. Branta ruficollis - Red-breasted goose), with at least 20% of this area water is suggested, although more water should be provided if possible in a larger pen (D1).
  • Geese are grazers and should have access to good short grass (less than 3 inches, 7.5cm long) for grazing. When grass is scarce, it may be supplemented with greenfood such as cabbage, lettuce etc.; alfalfa pellets have also been used for this purpose. Additional grain and pellets should be given, with a change to breeder pellets in the breeding season, at which time less or no grain may be fed. Breeding success may be decreased if these species are allowed to become too fat and this can be problematic particularly for the species which normally breed in the high Arctic.
  • Goslings may be parent hatched and reared, although being mainly terrestrial they are more vulnerable to predation than are cygnets. Whether parent or hand-reared, goslings should be provided with unlimited grazing and other green food such as chopped lettuce, as well as starter crumbs.
  • Geese species may hybridise with one another, but this is not usually a problem if they are well paired before being mixed with other birds.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B95, B108, B128.w1, B129, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Greylag geese are robust. They may be kept on large urban lakes and ponds: fully winged, they will frequently stay without annual wing-clipping once settled. They require water with adjoining grasslands. Good grazing will provide most of their food, with e.g. additional grain/pellets. Fiercely defend nesting territory, may need to be maintained in separate pen for breeding.
  • These geese are easy to breed, although Anser anser anser may be bred more readily than Anser anser rubirostris. They are not particular in choosing a nest site and may nest in open or close ground cover, they may also use a kennel/wigwam if provided. Eggs are usually laid March to May (Anser anser anser) or April to May (Anser anser rubirostris).
  • Both males and females readily hybridise with most Anser spp. and Branta spp. Fertile hybrids reported with Anser caerulescens - Snow goose, Anser cygnoides - Swan goose, Anser rossii - Ross's goose also sterile hybrids with Alopochen aegyptiacus - Egyptian goose, Anser fabalis - Bean goose, Anser indicus - Bar-headed goose, Branta bernicla - Brent goose, Branta canadensis - Canada goose, Branta leucopsis - Barnacle goose, Cygnus cygnus - Whooper swan, Cygnus atratus - Black swan, Cygnus olor - Mute swan, Cygnus columbianus - Tundra swan and Cairina moschata - Muscovy duck.

(B29, B30, B31, B97, D1).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme suggested average closed ring size: T 20.0mm (D8).

Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 30-35 inches, 76-89cm (B3, B1)
Adult weight General 2500-4100g (B1)
Male 2800-4100g (B1); Anser anser anser mean 7.9 lbs. (B8)
Female 2500-3800g (B1); Anser anser anser mean 6.9 lbs. (B8)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Head

Adult Bill Male Orange (Anser anser anser); pink (Anser anser rubirostris)
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Dark brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill As adult. Orange (Anser anser anser); pink (Anser anser rubirostris)
Eyes (Iris) Dark brown.

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Legs

Adult Male Pink.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Pink.

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Plumage

Adult Male
Click Illustration for full-page view
Head and neck grey-brown, neck furrowed. Breast and abdomen paler grey-brown, with slight dark spotting on abdomen. Flank feathers darker with pale edges; white line along top of flank. Upperparts darker grey-brown with pale feather edges.

Ventral area and tail-coverts white. Rump and tail grey with white border to tail.

Wings have pale blueish-grey coverts and grey-black primaries and secondaries.

Variations (If present)Click Illustration for full-page view --
Juvenile No spotting on breast.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts brow/olive, underparts yellow.
Bill: Grey.
Feet: Grey.

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Reproduction

Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins March/April.
No. of Clutches One, but will lay a second clutch if the first is lost.

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Nest placement and structure

On ground in reedbeds, under bushes, in sheltered hollows and on rafts of vegetation. Pile of reeds and grasses, down-lined.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 4-6 (B1)
Range 2-12 (B1); 4-8 (B8)
Egg Description Creamy white (B3, B8). Size: 85 x 58mm. Weight: 160g. (B3).

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Incubation

27-28 days (B1); 28-30 days (B8).

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Hatching

Synchronous.

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Fledging

50-60 days (B1); 55-60 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males Three, occasionally two years old.
Females Three, occasionally two years old.

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Adults Mainly grazes on land, also forages in water, sometimes by up-ending.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Often in loose colonies, female builds the nest.
Incubation Female incubates, male stands guard.
Newly-hatched Guarded by both parents, brooded by the female when small; may return to the nest at night.
Juveniles

Remain with parents until following breeding season.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Gregarious, but territorial when nesting.
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Pair bonds strong and permanent once fully formed at three to four years. Occasionally trios formed, usually in semi-captive situations.

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Predation in Wild

Sea-eagles sometime take goslings.

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Activity Patterns

Roost at night in flocks.
Circadian Diurnal.

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Natural Diet

Adults

Basically vegetarian. Grass, roots, leaves, stems, seed-heads, fruits and sprouts of various plants. In winter also grain, potatoes and other vegetables

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Newly-hatched

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal
  • Anser anser anser: Iceland, northern and central Europe.
  • Anser anser rubirostris: Further east, from Turkey and eastward to north-east China.

Most populations migratory, moving to lower latitudes for winter, further south in very cold winters. Reaches north-west Africa, Asia Minor, India, Burma and northern Indochina.

London: In the London Area, "Common feral breeding resident" with nearly 300 birds at Sevenoaks wildfowl reserve in 2000; one humdred or more may be seen in some Inner London locations such as Kensington Gardens. (J322.65.w1)

Occasional and Accidental

Accidental to Spitsbergen, Bear Island, Jan Mayen, Israel, Kuwait, Cyprus, Malta, Libya, Morocco, Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands.

Introduced

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Habitat

Breeding: open country with water which is fringed with vegetation or near grasslands. Winter: open country: farmlands, swamps, lakes, coastal lagoons.

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Conservation

Intraspecific variation

Western Greylag Goose (Anser anser anser)
Eastern Greylag Goose (Anser anser rubrirostris)
Domestic goose descended from Anser anser.

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
(Importance)

Abundant, not threatened (B1).

General Legislation
  • This species is listed on Schedule 1 - Part 2 (Birds protected by special penalties: Notes on the revised schedules state "Birds and their eggs protected by special penalties during the close season, 1 February to 31 August (21 February to 31 August below high water mark) but which may be killed or taken at other times") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
  • This species is listed on Schedule 2 - Part I (Birds which may be killed or taken outside the close season, 1 February to 31 August except where indicated otherwise: Notes on the revised schedules state "NOTE: The close season for ducks and geese when below high water mark is 21 February to 31 August") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
CITES listing Listing not yet included.
Red-data book listing Listing not yet included.
Threats The main potential threats are hunting and habitat loss from the drainage of wetlands (B1, B8).

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Captive Populations

Common in European collections (B8).

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Trade

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