Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose

name = Greylag Goose
status = LC | status_system = IUCN3.1

image_width = 250px
image_caption = Western Greylag Goose ("Anser anser anser")
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Anseriformes
familia = Anatidae
genus = "Anser"
species = "A. anser"
binomial = "Anser anser"
binomial_authority = (Linnaeus, 1758)
subdivision_ranks = Subspecies
subdivision =
* "A. a. anser" Western Greylag Goose
* "A. a. rubrirostris" Eastern Greylag Goose
* "A. a. domesticus" Domesticated goose

The Greylag Goose, "Anser anser", is a bird with a wide range in the Old World. It is the type species of the genus "Anser".

It was in pre-Linnean times known as the Wild Goose ("Anser ferus"). This species is the ancestor of domesticated geese in Europe and North America. Flocks of feral birds derived from domesticated birds are widespread.

The Greylag Goose is one of the species to which the "Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds" (AEWA) applies.


The Greylag is a large goose, 74–84 cm (29–33 in) long with a 149–168 cm (59–66 in) wingspan and a body weight of 2.3–5.5 kg (5–12 lbs). It has a large head and almost triangular bill. The legs are pink, and the bird is easily identified in flight by the pale leading edge to the wing. It has a loud cackling call, "kiYAAA-ga-ga", like the domestic goose.

The western European nominate subspecies, "A. a. anser", has an orange-pink bill and is slightly smaller and darker than the pink-billed Asian race, "A. a. rubrirostris". Eastern European birds are often intermediate in appearance.

Distribution and habitat

This species is found throughout the Old World, apparently breeding where suitable localities are to be found in many European countries, although it no longer breeds in southwestern Europe. Eastwards it extends across Asia to China.

The geese are migratory, moving south or west in winter, but Scottish breeders, some other populations in northwestern Europe, and feral flocks are largely resident. This species is one of the last to migrate, and it is thought that "greaylag" signifies in English "late", "last", or "slow", as in "lag"gard, a loiterer, or old terms such as "lagman", the last man, "lagteeth", the posterior molar or "wisdom" teeth (as the last to appear), and "lagclock", a clock that is behind time. Thus the Greylag Goose is the grey goose, which in England when the name was given, was not strongly migratory but lagged behind the other wild goose species when they left for their northern breeding quarters.

In Great Britain their numbers have declined as a breeding bird, retreating north to breed wild only in the Outer Hebrides and the northern mainland of Scotland. However during the 20th century, feral populations have been established elsewhere, and they have now re-colonised much of England. The breeding habitat is a variety of wetlands including marshes, lakes, and damp heather moors.

In Norway, the number of greylag goose is estimated to have increased three- to fivefold during the last 15-20 years. As a consequence, farmers' problems caused by geose grazing on farmland has increased considerably. This problem is also evident for the pink-footed goose.

Within science, the greylag goose is most notable as being the bird with which the ethologist Konrad Lorenz first did his major studying into the behavioural phenomenon of imprinting.

North America

In North America, small populations of Greylag Geese descended from domesticated geese have become established, mostly in city parks and near humans. These geese usually exist as part of larger flocks of Canada Geese. The Greylag Goose can hybridize with the native Canada Goose, producing birds which can be puzzling to birders attempting to identify them.

Notes and references

* Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
* [ Strong increase in the number of greylag goose in Norway] (PDF, in Norwegian, by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research)

External links

* [ RSPB A to Z of UK Birds]
* [ Greylag Goose videos] on the Internet Bird Collection
* [ Confusing Domestic Geese] - An article about Greylag geese in North America, with photos
* [ the Greylag Goose in the Oostvaardersplassen] - An article about the Greylag Goose population in nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen, the Netherlands


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • greylag goose — pilkoji žąsis statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Anser anser angl. greylag goose vok. Graugans, f rus. серый гусь, m pranc. oie cendrée, f ryšiai: platesnis terminas – tikrosios žąsys …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • greylag goose — noun common grey wild goose of Europe; ancestor of many domestic breeds • Syn: ↑greylag, ↑graylag, ↑graylag goose, ↑Anser anser • Hypernyms: ↑goose • Member Holonyms: ↑Anser, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • greylag goose — noun /ˈɡɻeɪlæɡˈɡus/ Anser anser, a goose found across much of the Palearctic …   Wiktionary

  • Goose (disambiguation) — Goose may refer to:Birds* One of several wild bird species in the family Anatidae: ** Goose, birds in the subfamily Anserinae of the Anatidae ** Magpie goose, bird in the closely related family Anseranatidae ** Pygmy goose, birds in the genus… …   Wikipedia

  • Goose — Taxobox name = Goose image width = 240px image caption = Canada Goose, Branta canadensis regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves superordo = Galloanserae ordo = Anseriformes familia = Anatidae subfamilia = Anserinae tribus = Anserini… …   Wikipedia

  • greylag — /gray lag /, n. graylag. * * * Most common Eurasian representative (Anser anser) of the so called gray goose, and ancestor of all Occidental domestic geese. It nests in temperate regions and winters from Britain to North Africa, India, and China …   Universalium

  • greylag — /ˈgreɪlæg/ (say graylag) noun a wild goose, Anser anser, native to Eurasia; ancestor of the domesticated goose. Also, greylag goose. {grey + ? lag1, because it lags behind other birds in its annual migration} …   Australian English dictionary

  • greylag — noun A large grey European goose, Anser anser, with pink legs and dull orange beak Syn: greylag goose …   Wiktionary

  • greylag — n. (in full greylag goose) a wild goose, Anser anser, native to Europe. Etymology: GREY + LAG(1) (because of its late migration) …   Useful english dictionary

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