Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose

A Greylag goose which is known scientifically as “Anser Anser” is a large geese species of the Anatidae waterfowl family. It has pink legs and a white plumage, barred Grey, mottled, orange beak.

It is a big bird that measures 29 and 36 inches with weight averaging 3.3kg. Its distribution is very common, as some of its kind migrate South wards from the North of Asia and Europe to spend the winter in warmer places. Goose is derived from the Latin name “Anser”.

Greylag goose migrate to northerly spawning ground in moorland, spring or nesting in marshes around lakes and on coastal islands.

Usually, Greylag goose copulate for life and form their nest on the ground in the middle of the vegetation.

A clutch of three to five eggs is laid; The female incubates the eggs and both parents defend and raise the young.

 The birds stay together as a group of family, travelling south as part of a flock in the fall, and separating the following year.

In winter they occupy semi-aquatic habitats, estuaries, swamps and flooded fields, feed on grass and often consume agricultural crops.

Some populations, such as those in southern England and in urban areas throughout the species range, are mainly resident and occupy the same area year-round.

Scientific Classification

  • Scientific Name: Anser anser
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Anser
  • Species: Anser Anser


Greylag happens to be the most bulky and largest Grey goose of80 the Genus Anser specie, though it has more agility than domestic geese and also it is lightly built.

Its body is bulky in nature and pear-shaped, with a thick long neck and a bill with a large head. It’s legs and feet are pink in nature, and a pink or orange bill with a brown or white nail.

It is 29-36 inches in length with a wing length measuring 16.2-18.9 inches. It’s tail measures up 2.4- 2.7 inches, and a bill of 2.5- 2.7 inches long, and a tarsus of 2.8 to 3.7 inches. The weight of a Greylag ranges from 2.16- 4.56 kg, with a mean weight of around 3.3 kg.

The wingspan is 58-71 inches. The Males are generally larger than the females, with the sexual dimorphism more conspicuous in the eastern subspecies rubirostris, which is larger than the nominate subspecies on average.

The plumage of the gray goose is gray brown with a darker head and paler chest and a lighter belly with a variable amount of black spots. It has a light gray fore and aft section that is noticeable when the bird is in flight or when it is stretching its wings on the ground.

It has a white line on the upper flanks and the wing covers are light in contrast to the darker flight feathers. Its plumage is patterned by the pale edges of the feathers.

Young people mainly differ in the absence of black spots on their chest and stomach and in their gray legs.  Adults have a characteristic concertina fold pattern in the feathers on the neck.

The gray goose has a loud cackling similar to that of the domestic geese “aahng-ung-ung” that is uttered on the in flight or on ground.

There are several subtle variations used in different circumstances, and individual goose appear to be able to identify other known geese based on their voices.

The sound of a flock of geese is similar to a dog barking. Goslings chirp or whistle slightly, and adults hiss when threatened or angry.

Distribution and Habitat

This species has a Palearctic distribution. The nominated subspecies spawns in Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, northern Russia, the Baltic States, eastern Hungary, Poland and Romania.

It also spawns locally in the, Denmark, Slovakia, Germany, UK, Austria, the Czech Republic, and North Macedonia. The eastern race extends east over much of Asia to China.  European birds travel south to the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Asian birds travel to, Iran, northern India, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, and east to China, Pakistan.

In their breeding areas they are found in bogs with scattered lakes, in swamps, bogs and peat bogs, next to salt lakes and on small islands that lie a little outside the sea.

They like dense ground covers made of, rushes, bushes, reeds, heather and willow thickets. In their winter quarters they can often be found in marshes, estuaries, freshwater swamps, steppes, flooded fields, moors and pastures near lakes, rivers and streams.

They also visit agricultural areas where they feed on winter crops, beans, rice, or other crops, and migrate to shallows and coastal sandbars, mud banks in estuaries, or reclusive lakes at night.

Many immature birds gather each year to molt on the Rone Islands near Gotland in the Baltic Se.

From the 1950s onward, temperature increase during winter have led to breeding of Greylag geese in Central Europe which in turn resulted in the reduction of their winter traveling distances.

This means that geese can therefore return to form breeding grounds in the early spring.

The number of Greylag geese as breeding birds significantly reduced in Great Britain where they moved north to breed wild only in the northern mainland of Scotland and also in the Outer Hebrides.


Greylag Goose

Greylag geese feed largely on grass, making them herbivorous in nature. They find short growing grasses very nutritious, which explains why they are mostly found grazing in pastures with cows or sheep.

Because of their low nutritional status, they have to feed much of their time. The herb passes through the intestines quickly and is drained frequently.

The tubers of the sea clubrush (Bolboschoenus maritimus) as well as berries and aquatic plants such as duckweed (Lemna) and floating sweet grass (Glyceria fluitans) are caught.

In winter, they eat grass and leaves, but they also collect grain on stubble and sometimes feed on growing plants, especially at night.

They are known to feed on oats, wheat, barley, buckwheat, lentils, peas, and root crops. Acorns are sometimes eaten, and seaweed (Zostera sp.) Can be eaten on the coast.

In the UK in the 1920s, the pink-footed goose “discovered” that potatoes were edible and began to feed on potato waste.

The gray goose followed suit in the 1940s and is now regularly searching for tubers in plowed fields. They also eat small fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs and insects.

Homosexual couples are widespread, and 14-20% of couples may be gander depending on the herd and share the features of heterosexual couples except that the bonds seem tighter due to the intensity of their ads.

Same-sex couples also engage in advertising and sexual relationships, and often occupy high-ranking positions in the herd because of their unmatched strength and courage, leading some to think that they might serve as keepers of the herd.

The orientation of the birds is generally flexible, with more than half of widowers mating with a bird of the opposite sex.

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