03/03/2004
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Winter Geese

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Barnacle Goose: Caerlaverock, Dumfries and Galloway. What a fine spectacle a flock of wild geese can be! (Photo: Phillip Tomkinson)

This article is a follow-up to the first section dealing with the ‘grey geese’, which can be seen in full at: Full Grey Geese Article.

Canada Goose Branta canadensis

The nominate race canadensis was introduced from North America to grace ornamental parks in England in the 17th century, with the first birds arriving at St. James's Park in London in 1665. This is the goose species with which most are familiar with a breeding population in excess of 60,000 birds. Birds occur throughout England and Wales, southern Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland. A feral population also occurs in Scandinavia (10,000 pairs), which winters in northern France, the Netherlands and Germany. Small resident populations are also found elsewhere in Europe.

Canada Goose: Pennington, Gtr Manchester (Jan 2003). (Photo: Sue and Andy Tranter) Canada Goose: Fairhaven, Lancs (Sep 2003). (Photo: Sue and Andy Tranter)

The Canada Goose in Britain is largely sedentary, with limited dispersal. There is a moult migration to the Beauly Firth (Moray) which mostly involves birds from Yorkshire and the West Midlands. A small number of ringed Scandinavian birds have occurred in Britain and Ireland, and one was recovered from the River Ob in west Siberia. There have also two movements between Britain and the USA. Our local Canada Geese are perhaps not as boring as we first thought!

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Most birders become more interested in Canada Geese when the vagrant forms are considered. There have been up to 12 races recognised, varying in size and colour tone. Of these, four have definitely occurred as vagrants (with two others possibly having done so), associated with wild geese in Scotland (mainly on Islay), and Ireland and others with Pinkfeet in Norfolk.

Richardson's Canada Goose Branta canadensis hutchinsii

This is the smallest of the pale forms, with a thick straight neck and a small bill; hutchinsii breeds in Arctic Canada and winters on the Gulf coast of Texas and Mexico. This is the commonest of the vagrant forms to occur in northwest Europe.

Richardson's Canada Goose: Caerlaverock, Dumfries and Galloway (Dec 2003). Appears 'square-headed' with with a steep forehead and medium-sized bill. (Photo: Allan Sumner) Richardson's Canada Goose: Freiston, Lincs (Feb 2003). The pale breast is a pointer, but note structure and the short legs and squat posture, typical of Richardson's. (Photo: Steve Botham)

Subscribers to Bird News Extra can see the rest of this article (which covers the remaining Canada Goose forms, Barnacle Goose, ‘Brent Geese’ (Dark-bellied, Pale-bellied, Black Brant and Grey-bellied Brant), Red-breasted Goose and Egyptian Goose) at: Full Branta Geese Article