The numbers of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese wintering in Britain: observations 1969-1975 and predictions 1976-1980

M A Ogilvie, H Boyd


Greylag Geese Anser anser breeding in lowland Iceland and Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus breeding in central Iceland and east Greenland arrive in Scotland and northern England in October. A series of censuses of geese at all known autumn roosts made in early November each year since 1960 has shown that from 1969 to 1975 the number of each species continued to increase, though more slowly than in the previous decade. There were 89,100 Pinkfeet in November 1974 but the total fell back to 73,200 in 1975, after one of the poorest breeding seasons known. The highest number of Greylags yet reached was 76,500 in November 1973; there were 63,000 in November 1975. In 1970-74 recruitment of young geese was at a higher rate than 1965-69 but well below that of 1960-1964. The large number of geese of both species in east-central Scotland have caused some concern to farmers. It appears that the geese visiting there in autumn form a relatively closed group, augmented occasionally by 'immigrants' but in 1975 seen in unusually small numbers. The reduction was probably due to a temporary comparative scarcity of food in the region due to exceptional harvest conditions but may also have been affected by action taken by farmers in the previous winter. Numbers in north-east Scotland have grown more rapidly than those elsewhere, apart from a resurgence of Pink-footed Geese in Lancashire, one of the few recent examples of geese building up in the south of the wintering range. The Lancashire birds seem to form a much more open group than those in east-central Scotland. Projections of trends during 1969-1975 suggest that in 1976-1980 it is comparatively unlikely that either stock will increase to above the peaks they have already reached.

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