Anser brachyrhynchuspink-footed goose

Geographic Range

The pink-footed goose’s (Anser brachyrhynchus) breeding range is found as far north as the east coast of Greenland and throughout central Iceland. It is also found along the western area of the island archipelago of Svalbard, Norway, scattered along the westward region. The non-breeding range of the pink-footed goose includes isolated populations throughout the United Kingdom. This goose is also found on the east coast of Denmark, northeastern coast of Germany, and has isolated populations along the southeastern coast of Ireland. Occasional, or vagrant, sightings have been reported in Europe (e.g., list countries), Asia (e.g., list countries), and North America (United States and Canada). they are native to the surrounding Atlantic ocean. (BirdLife International, 2015)


Pink-footed geese utilize a wide range of habitats throughout the year.They can be found in various types of habitats such as, polar, terrestrial saltwater or marine freshwater. These geese search for food in large grassy areas and throughout rocky areas. These grasslands are usually within 10 km of their roosting sites. During the winter the geese seek unfrozen grasslands, where nutrient-rich food is available. The breeding geese are most commonly found on rocky areas such as cliffs, steep river gorges, and snow-free hummocks during the winter. During the summer, these breeding geese are found near lush vegetation such as damp sedge meadows. They are also seen near seas, or lakes. In the winter months, non-breeding geese are found in saltmarshes, mudflats, and reservoirs.. During the summer, they inhabit stubble fields and large grasslands. The non-breeding geese have been seen to be most abundant in flat agricultural lands. There is no elevation of depth number recorded. (BirdLife International, 2015; Fox and Bergersen, 2005; Fox, et al., 2006)

Physical Description

Pink-footed geese have a wingspan measuring 135–170 cm, weigh 2.2-2.7 kg and have a total body length of 60-75 cm. They are most well known for the pink coloration on their feet. These individuals have a grey-brown plumage, white tails, short white coloration on the edge of their necks and small pink bills with black tips. The males tend to be about a kilogram more than the females. The juveniles resemble the adults, but normally the young’s plumage has more spots and markings as well as yellowish legs. These goslings weigh about 3 to 4 ounces when hatched. They are born with feathers and have the capability of walking, eating, and seeing.The young and adult are both endothermic, (absorption of heat) and have a bilateral symmetry. (Fox, et al., 2006; Glahder, et al., 2006; Klaassen, et al., 2006; Lazarus and Inglis, 1978; Noer, et al., 2007; Speed, et al., 2009)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    2.2 to 2.7 kg
    4.85 to 5.95 lb
  • Range length
    60 to 75 cm
    23.62 to 29.53 in
  • Range wingspan
    135 to 170 cm
    53.15 to 66.93 in


Pink-footed geese are monogamous, but don’t choose a mate until they are nearly three years old. They attract each other by “head dipping,” which where they bob their heads up and down. The male will mount the female after their head dipping action occurs and will grab the feathers on her neck with his beak. After they mate, they are bonded and stay paired to rear their young. These geese are very protective of their mate and other pink-footed geese. If predators or other geese are trying to compete, the male will emit a hissing sound. This sound is their way of saying stay away. They are cooperative breeders; and breed seasonally. If one geese gets sick or wounded the group will remain right beside them and help until they die or fly again. Pink-footed geese stay nearby to protect them from predators and disturbances. If it’s their mate that ends up dying, the other will stay single for the rest of its life, or wait several years before choosing another partner. Its been more common for the geese to stay single for the rest of their years. (Boyd and Fox, 1992; Elder, 1955; Fox, et al., 2010; Prop, et al., 2013)

Pink-footed geese breed seasonally, from mid-May to June, or as late as July. They set up their nests in isolated areas near water. The female will build her nests with sticks and feathers she has plucked from her body. After the nest has been built, she will lay an egg every day until there are 3-5 eggs. A normal brood for these geese is about 4 eggs. The female incubates the eggs for 28-30 days, and the eggs usually hatch around 27 days. The birth mass is between 1.814 to 2.721 kilograms. The time to fledging takes about 50-60 days, at an average of 56 days. After they fledge, they become independent, but still stay close to their parents. The male and female pink-footed geese don’t reach sexual maturity until 3 years. (Boyd and Fox, 1992; Elder, 1955; Fox, et al., 2010; Prop, et al., 2013)

  • Breeding interval
  • Breeding season
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 5
  • Range time to hatching
    26 to 28 days
  • Range fledging age
    50 to 60 days
  • Average fledging age
    56 days
  • Average time to independence
    2 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 (low) years

Both males and females pink-footed geese provide parental care for the eggs and young. Females incubate the eggs, protecting them from rain and excessive sunlight. In doing so, females lose about 30% of their body weight. Every few days the female will leave the nest to grab food. When they are not on the nest, they cover the eggs with sticks (for warmth and protection from predators). The males stay nearby in order to deter predators, but standing too close would give away the location of the eggs. If the predators are near, the males will make noisy threats towards them, while the young or eggs stay beside the female. If the noise doesn’t scare away the predator the geese will fly away leaving the eggs. The males and females work together to take care of their families. If parents don’t notice their young wandering, other pink-footed geese can adopt the misplaced goslings. These are migratory birds and revisit the same areas. The instincts of the young are to follow their parents the following year to where they were born. The young geese will start to form flocks, mate, and start families in the same area they were raised. (Boyd and Fox, 1992; Elder, 1955; Fox, et al., 2010; Prop, et al., 2013)

  • Parental Investment
  • male parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • male
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents


Young pink-footed geese normally have a higher mortality rate than adults because of predators, lack of food, or parasites. Upon hatching, they are unable to fly and rely on their parents to keep away the predators. The predators are different sizes; therefore they have different techniques of escaping or scaring them off. The male will screech towards the predators, if they don’t give up the geese will fly or waddle into the water leaving the young behind. If they survive to adulthood, these geese live an average of 22 years in the wild. The longest lifespan of a pink-footed goose in the wild was 41 years. These geese are not held in captivity; therefore there is no age to be recorded. (Jennings, 1961; Madsen, et al., 2002)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    41 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    22 years


The pink-footed goose is migratory October through March. Their migration speeds are based upon the weather, for if there is bad weather, it takes longer for these geese to get to their distinct area. They can fly as fast as 60 km per hour and as long as 2 to 3 thousand miles. They also have breeding periods, normally in Iceland and the east coast of Greenland. The geese molting for approximately 25 days in the months of July and August. They end up losing wing feathers, which make them unable to fly. When not in the molting period, they are very sociable, for they fly in huge flocks around dusk, honking at each other. This is their way of communication. They form large groups or colonies that can consist of 5000 geese in just one area. These geese are always willing to help each other by protecting and taking care of young. (Giroux and Patterson, 1995; Inglis, 1976; Klaassen, et al., 2006; Lazarus and Inglis, 1978)

  • Average territory size
    20000 km^2

Home Range

Though these geese can fly across much land, they tend to remain in a particular range during certain seasons. Their territory size is quite large, containing about 20,000km2 of area or more. The pink-footed geese stay in locations where there is more feeding and safe nesting sites during their breeding seasons. When its not breeding seasons they choose a range that consists of vegetation and water. The male and female have been seen to have the same home range size. (BirdLife International, 2015; Giroux and Patterson, 1995; Inglis, 1976)

Communication and Perception

Pink-footed geese are extremely sociable and fly in flocks up to 40,000 birds. The sound made by these geese is a high-pitched honk. They are very similar to the greylag goose (Anser anser), but have a higher tone. Most often pink-footed geese emit two syllable notes, particularly in flight. Its frequency has yet to be published. They also connected by a sense of touch, vision, and taste. Vision allows them to identify other geese, touch gives them a feel of their surroundings, and taste allows them to perceive types of food. (Library, The British Library Board)

Food Habits

Pink-footed geese are herbivorous. They more commonly feed on leaves, stems, roots, berries, mosses, and grasses during their breeding season. It’s been noted that the pink-footed geese also eat puzzlegrass Equisetum. These geese forage close to where they nest, to minimize energy expenditures. During the non-breeding seasons they mainly feed on grasses and agriculturally grown crops like, carrots, Daucus carota, potatoes Solanum tuberosum, and beets Beta vulgaris. During the late winter they feed only in pastures on decaying material from the previous growing seasons. The young eat the same foods as their parents, which mostly is various types of grasses. There are no exact studies to show the food percentage by group. (BirdLife International, 2015; Fox, et al., 2006; Larsen and Madsen, 2000)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Pink-footed geese are preyed on by various species such as humans (Homo sapiens), Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus), walruses (Odobenus rosmarus), gulls (Larus species), and polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Humans hunt these geese illegally in Iceland during the spring. Walruses hunt these geese by swimming underneath the flocks of geese, breaking them apart from each other. They then grab a goose with their mouth or flippers, and bring it under the water to drown it. Polar bears have been invading the terrestrial habitat of Svalbard due to the scarce amount of their main prey. Goose eggs have always been a part of their diet, but they have had to hunt more of the eggs to survive. Arctic foxes and gulls also hunt eggs and young. The geese will abandon their nests if they are disturbed by any of these predators. (BirdLife International, 2015; Ormerod, 2002)

Ecosystem Roles

Pink-footed geese carry two types of internal parasites: tapeworms Hymenolepis megalops, and roundworms Trichostrongylus tenuis. Parasites were believed to be the cause of death for many years until they noticed the large amount of human hunting. Pink-footed geese are mainly herbivores, and are prey to many animals, such as arctic foxes Vulpes lagopus, walruses, Odobenus rosmarus, gulls, and polar bears, Ursus maritimus. (Gill, et al., 1996; Jennings and Soulsby, 1956; Madsen, et al., 2002)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • tapeworms Hymenolepis megalops
  • Trichostrongylus tenuis

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans illegally hunt pink-footed geese in Iceland during offseason to get their meat and feathers to make various items.. There down feathers are used to make jackets, blankets, and etc. Over 75% of recorded deaths in these geese were a result of human hunting. In Iceland a group of people offer hunting tours to the public during hunting season. This provides an income for many people. (BirdLife International, 2015; Jennings and Soulsby, 1956; Jennings, 1961)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Pink-footed geese are crop pests and cause a lot of damage by destroying most crops. The overall population of these geese has increased from when they were introduced till now. This has caused the agriculture to decrease in the amount of crops present. These geese have been known to feed on winter-sown cereals and other types of grains, which leave less food for the cattle in that area. Farmers have been trying to get these geese to feed on sugar beet << Beta vulgaris>> rather than the cereals. (Gill, et al., 1996; Jepsen, 1991)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Pink-footed geese are listed on the IUCN Red List as a species of “Least Concern” because of increasing trends in populations. Flocks of up to 40,000 have been reported. There are no special statuses on CITES, US Federal List, or US Migratory Bird Act. The main threat to these birds is illegal hunting, which accounts for more than 75% of reported deaths Human disturbance in the breeding season also can be detrimental. Farmers are using this knowledge to their benefit, purposely disturbing the geese. Helicopters and surveying areas also threaten pink-footed geese, giving them limited areas to reproduce. If there are areas where helicopters and surveying areas consistently are, the geese will stay clear for they are very timid to these types of things. As for predators, they will always have a negative impact upon these geese by disrupting their feeding, breeding, and nesting sites. The conservation measures are not in place because the populations are already on the rise. (BirdLife International, 2015; Gill, et al., 1996; Jennings and Soulsby, 1956; Jepsen, 1991)


Andie Van Kerckhove (author), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Zeb Pike (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


uses sight to communicate


BirdLife International, 2015. "Anser brachyrhynchus" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22679872A84621273. Accessed January 28, 2016 at

Boyd, H., A. Fox. 1992. Sexual activity of pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus at a staging area in Iceland. Wildfowl, 43: 117-120.

Elder, W. 1955. Th relation of age and sex to the weights of pink-footed and grey lag geese. Wildfowl, 7/7: 127-132.

Fox, A., E. Bergersen. 2005. Lack of competition between barnacle geese Branta leucopsis and pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus during the pre-breeding period in Svalbard. Journal of Avian Biology, 36/3: 173-178.

Fox, A., G. Fox, A. Liaklev, N. Gerhardsson. 2010. Predation of flightless pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) by Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) in southern Edgeøya, Svalba. Polar Research, 29/3: 455-457.

Fox, T., I. Francis, E. Bergersen. 2006. Diet and habitat use of Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus during arrival and pre-breeding periods in Adventdalen. Ardea, 94/3: 691-700.

Gill, J., A. Watkinson, W. Sutherland. 1996. The impact of sugar beet farming practice on wintering pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus populations. Biological Conservation, 76/2: 95-100.

Giroux, J., I. Patterson. 1995. Daily movements and habitat use by radio-tagged pink- footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus wintering in northeast Scotland. Wildfowl, 46: 31-44.

Glahder, C., T. Fox, C. Hübner, J. Madsen, I. Tombre. 2006. Pre-nesting site use of satellite transmitter tagged Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Ardea, 94/3: 679-691.

Inglis, I. 1976. Agonistic behaviour of breeding pink-footed geese with reference to Ryder's hypotheses. Wildfowl, 27/1976: 95-99.

Jennings, A. 1961. An analysis of 1,000 deaths in wild birds. Bird Study, 8/1: 25-31.

Jennings, A., J. Soulsby. 1956. Diseases in wild birds, third report. Bird Study, 3/4: 270-272.

Jepsen, P. 1991. Crop damage and managment of the pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus in Denmark. ARDEA, 79/2: 191-194.

Klaassen, M., S. Bauer, J. Madsen, I. Tombre. 2006. Modelling behavioural and fitness consequences of disturbance for geese along their spring flyway. Journal of Applied Ecology, 43/1: 92-100.

Kéry, M., J. Madsen, L. Jean-Dominique. 2006. Survival of Svalbard pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus in relation to winter climate, density and land-use. Journal of Animal Ecology, 75/5: 1172-1181.

Larsen, J., J. Madsen. 2000. Effects of wind turbines and other physical elements on field utilization by pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus): A landscape perspective. Landscape Ecology, 15/8: 755–764.

Lazarus, J., I. Inglis. 1978. The breeding behaviour of the pink-footed goose: Parental care and vigilant behaviour during the fledging period. Behaviour, 65/1/2: 62-88.

Library, B. The British Library Board. "British wildlife recordings" (On-line). Accessed (Date Unknown) at

Madsen, J., M. Frederiksen, B. Ganter. 2002. Trends in annual and seasonal survival of pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Ibis, 144/: 218–226..

Madsen, J. 1985. Habitat selection of farmland feeding geese in West Jutland, Denmark: An example of a niche shift. Ornis Scandinavica, 16/2: 140-144.

Madsen, J. 1985. Relations between change in spring habitat selection and daily energetics of pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Ornis Scandinavica, 16/3: 222-228.

Madsen, J., K. Marcel. 2006. Assessing body condition and energy budget components by scoring abdominal profiles in free-ranging pink-footed geese Anser brachyrhynchus. Journal of Avian Biology, 37/3: 283-287.

Noer, H., J. Madsen, P. Hartmann. 2007. Reducing wounding of game by shotgun hunting: Effects of a Danish action plan on pink-footed geese. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44/3: 653–662.

Ormerod, S. 2002. Applied issues with predators and predation: Editor's introduction. Journal of Applied Ecology, 39/2: 181-188.

Prop, J., T. Oudman, T. van Spanje, E. Wolters. 2013. Patterns of predation of pink-footed goose nests by polar bear. Ornis Norvegica, 36: 38-46.

Speed, J., S. Woodin, H. Tømmervik, M. Tamstorf, R. Van der Wal. 2009. Predicting habitat utilization and extent of ecosystem disturbance by an increasing herbivore population. Ecosystems, 12/3: 349-359.

Therkildsen, O., J. Madsen. 1999. Goose grazing selectivity along a depletion gradient. Ecography, 22/5: 516-520.