Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus

The Pink-footed Goose population overwintering in Norfolk has been increasing for many years now and reached an all-time high of over 150,000 in December 2004. Changes in EU funding policy have affected sugar-beet growers in Norfolk and as a result the species favourite food is likely to become harder to find in future, so it is quite possible that these numbers may begin to fall again now.

This page was getting quite long so I've moved some of the photos to a second page.

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Pink-footed Goose, Swanton Morley (Norfolk, UK), 29th March 2008

 

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Pink-footed Goose, Snettisham (Norfolk, UK), 17th March 2009

 

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Pink-footed Geese, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 8th January 2009

 

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Pink-footed Geese, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 20th November 2009

Pink-footed Goose, Docking (Norfolk, UK), 1st November 2004

 

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juvenile Pink-footed Geese, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 8th December 2008

 

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Pink-footed Goose, Shernborne (Norfolk, UK), 5th December 2011 - what a difference a few seconds and a shifting cloud can make!

 

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Pink-footed Goose, S of Brancaster Staithe (Norfolk, UK), 29th November 2004

Pink-footed Goose, S of Brancaster Staithe (Norfolk, UK), 2nd December 2004

 

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Pink-footed Geese, New Holkham - Wells (Norfolk, UK), 2nd December 2006. The left hand bird appears to show a pale eye-ring in this photo although this was not noticed in the field.

 

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Pink-footed Geese, north of Sedgeford (Norfolk, UK), 12th November 2009

 

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juvenile (left) and adult (right) Pink-footed Geese, between Docking and Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 16th November 2006

 

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Pink-footed Geese, Holkham (Norfolk, UK), 27th January 2012

 

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Pink-footed Geese, S of Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 13th November 2007

 

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Pink-footed Geese, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 19th November 2009 - one or two birds in here appear to have orange bills but they were getting their bills muddy when drinking and I think they're just affected by that. See below for more "orange"-billed birds.

 

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Pink-footed Geese, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 17th November 2009

 

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Pink-footed Goose, Shernborne (Norfolk, UK), 5th December 2011

 

Pink-footed Geese with orange bare parts

A small proportion of Pink-footed Geese show orange legs, inviting confusion with Tundra Bean Geese. Typically they have rather duller orange legs than Bean Geese, but individuals with bright orange legs do occur occasionally. In addition, the legs of typical pink-legged individuals can appear a dull orangey-brown when stained with mud.

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Pink-footed Goose with orange legs, between Shernborne & Amner (Norfolk, UK), 31st October 2003

 

Pink-footed Goose with dull orange legs, N of Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 12th December 2003

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Pink-footed Goose with orange legs, S of Brancaster Staithe (Norfolk, UK), 13th October 2006.

Pink-footed Goose, N of Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 15th November 2003. This bright orange-legged individual kept close company with an adult Greenland White-fronted Goose with exactly the same colour legs, prompting speculation that it may in fact be a hybrid. However in every other respect it appeared identical to a typical Pink-footed Goose and, being an adult, there is no reason to think that its association with the Greenland White-front was an offspring relationship.

 

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Pink-footed Geese with dull orange legs, between Shernborne & Amner (Norfolk, UK), 11th January 2011 - top two photos show an adult, lower two show a juvenile - both birds were together

 

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Pink-footed Geese with dull orange legs, Shernborne (Norfolk, UK), 9th December 2011 - three of a group of four adults all of which had the same pinky orange leg colour

Pink-footed Geese are much less variable in their bill colour (although the pattern of dark and pink is highly variable). Occasionally individuals may appear to show a wholly or partly dull orangey-coloured bill, however close examination will normally show that this effect is just a consequence of a thin coating of mud (see photos below).

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Pink-footed Goose with thin layer of mud making its bill appear dull orangey, Ringstead (Norfolk, UK), 4th November 2005.

Pink-footed Geese with thin layer of mud making their bills appear dull orange, south of Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 30th November 2006.

 

There is some variation in tone of pink with some birds showing a slight orangey hue, but truly orange-billed Pink-footed Geese are exceptional. I study tens of thousands of Pink-footed Geese each winter and although I have seen many orange-legged individuals I had never encountered one with a genuinely orange bill until November 2006 when I discovered the following bird which showed both orange legs AND an orange and black bill. The orange on the bill had a slight pinkish tone so it wasn't always obvious, but it was clearly orange and most of the time it stood out from the accompanying pink-billed individuals. The possibility of it being a Tundra Bean Goose was considered, but in every respect apart from the bare part colouring it appeared to resemble a normal Pink-footed Goose - in particular the white at the tip of the tail (shown in the right hand photo below) was too extensive for Bean Goose.

Tundra Bean Geese frequently overwinter among the Pink-footed Goose flocks in Norfolk, sometimes remaining with them well into the spring. It must be very likely that a few remain with them during the breeding season and hybrids should be expected. I believe there is a strong chance that this bird was such a hybrid, although I cannot rule out the possibility that it was simply a Pink-footed Goose with unusual bare part colouration.

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Pink-footed Goose or hybrid Pink-footed Goose x Bean Goose (with Pink-footed Geese), between Docking and Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 17th November 2006.

 

The bill colour of the following bird was clearly more orangey than the legs, or most Pink-footed Geese's bills, but not as orange as the putative hybrid above. A second bird in the same group was similar.

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Pink-footed Goose, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 9th December 2008

 

Aberrant Pink-footed Geese

Leucistic Pink-footed Geese occur quite frequently, while piebald individuals can also be encountered. The latter have varying amounts of whitish plumage, typically including the primaries and usually bands across their underparts (ranging from an almost entirely white belly to a slight streak across the breast). Whilst a small amount of white around the bill is not at all abnormal, the extent of pale around the face of one of the individuals below is exceptional - this individual also showed a faint pale eye-ring.

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piebald Pink-footed Goose, Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 17th November 2003

 

Pink-footed Goose with pale face & eye-ring, Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 2nd December 2003

 

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piebald Pink-footed Geese, Inmere (Norfolk, UK), 7th November 2011

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, N of Stanhoe (Norfolk, UK), 13th December 2004

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 8th January 2009

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, Amner (Norfolk, UK), 16th January 2009

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, between Amner and Shernborne (Norfolk, UK), 10th January 2011 (the top two are one bird and the bottom two a different bird)

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Goose, between Amner and Shernborne (Norfolk, UK), 11th January 2011

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Goose, between Docking and Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 15th November 2006

 

leucistic Pink-footed Goose, near Choseley (Norfolk, UK), 18th February 2010

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Goose (with normal bird), north of East Rudham (Norfolk, UK), 17th January 2008

 

leucistic Pink-footed Goose, north of East Rudham (Norfolk, UK), 18th January 2008

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, between Amner and Shernborne (Norfolk, UK), 6th January 2011

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, west of Burnham Market (Norfolk, UK), 8th February 2014

The following birds were small, skinny and extremely dark but also had varying amounts of red on the underparts. Both of these birds were in one flock, though they were not together. I have seen birds with similar red markings in previous winters. I've come up with a number of possible, although not very convincing, explanations ranging from red dye used for colour-marking, blood, erythrochroism and contamination - the last was favourite and it's now been suggested to me that red diesel may be the contaminant.

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small dark and red-plumaged Pink-footed Geese, Thornham (Norfolk, UK), 4th December 2008

 

Neck-ringed birds

A large number of Pink-footed Geese have been marked by way of a conspicuous neck ring bearing unique two or three character codes. A few carry leg rings bearing similar codes. If you submit details of ringed individuals you will receive in return a thorough report of all sightings of the individual goose since it was first ringed.

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Pink-footed Goose "AAT", south of Brancaster (Norfolk, UK), 30th November 2003

 

Pink-footed Goose "LAV", Sedgeford (Norfolk, UK), 12th November 2009

 

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Pink-footed Goose "CLA", west of Burnham Market (Norfolk, UK), 8th February 2014

More photos of Pink-footed Geese on a second page.