Canadian-ringed Ross's Goose reaches Europe


A Canadian-ringed Ross's Goose was recently photographed in Norway, marking the first occasion a European vagrant has been definitively traced back to North America.

The metal-ringed adult first appeared among Pink-footed Geese at Eidsbotn near Levanger, Norway, on 18 September. It was joined three days later by a second, unringed individual, which had been seen migrating over Værøy, Lofoten, a day or two prior. The two birds, both white-morph adults, lingered in the area until 4 October at least.

Heading south, the geese were located at Store Vildmose in northern Denmark on 7 October before continuing high south with their Pink-feet carriers mid-morning. They were later sighted over Ulvedybet and Mandø that afternoon. The next morning saw them logged over Den Haag and Maasvlakte in the Netherlands, before continuing south-west along the coast over Cadzand-Bad and into Belgium. Belgian birders relocated the flock in the vicinity of Vlissegem, West Flanders, the following day, where they remained until 11th at least. This marked the first occurrence of Ross's Goose in the country.

The white-morph Ross's Goose that was ringed in Nunavut, Canada (Bjørn Fostad).

Close-up photos of the ring taken during the bird's stay in Norway suggested it was of a type similar to those used on wild geese in North America. The ring code was partially read and found to contain the numbers '7-235'. While this lacked the first and last digits of the sequence, it was enough to confirm that the bird was ringed by the Canadian Wildlife Service in Nunavut, a vast territory that stretches across most of the Canadian Arctic. There are three possible ring combinations with these numbers, all used on geese ringed in the territory.

Typically, Ross's Goose breeds in northern Canada and migrates to winter in the southern and western US and northern Mexico. Since the 1950s, Ross's Goose has undergone a significant increase both in number and range expansion, now numbering more than 2 million individuals.

Confirmed movements of the two Ross's Geese through Europe (BirdGuides sightings data).

Pink-footed Goose breeds in east Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard, Norway. Birds from Greenland and Iceland primarily winter in Britain; however, birds from Svalbard comprise a separate population that migrates southwards via the Norwegian mainland to wintering grounds in Belgium and the Netherlands. There is a small exchange of individuals between the two populations – particularly in severe winters – which has sparked hopes that the two Ross's Geese might appear in Britain at some point during the coming months.

Ross's Goose is an accepted vagrant to the Western Palearctic, with accepted records in the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Britain, alongside pending records from Iceland, Sweden and Finland. In late 2021, it was announced that the taxon has been added to Category A of the British list.