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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → Pink-foo­ted goo­se

Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)

Pink-foo­ted geese like to return to the same bree­ding grounds every year. Their stock grows from year to year. On Sval­bard they are usual­ly very shy, but they are easy to obser­ve clo­se to and even in Lon­gye­ar­by­en when they have arri­ved after their spring migra­ti­on, in late May / ear­ly June.

Pink-footed goose

Pink-foo­ted goo­se.

Descrip­ti­on: The Pink-foo­ted goo­se is a medi­um-sized goo­se (length 60-75 cm, weight 2.2-3.5 kg) with a rela­tively short neck, lar­ge­ly black beak and pink legs. Resemb­ling the Bean goo­se (Anser faba­lis) or the Grey­lag goo­se (Anser anser) to some degree, its plu­mage appears to be less rich in con­trast com­pa­red to that of the Bar­na­cle goo­se.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­ons: Pink-foo­ted geese are high arc­tic birds that breed in Ice­land, East Green­land and Sval­bard, whe­re they feel at home on the who­le archi­pe­la­go, par­ti­cu­lar­ly the wes­tern parts. They spend the win­ter near the coasts of the North Sea and use the island Andøya in nort­hern Nor­way as an important res­ting place during their migra­ti­on. When they arri­ve in Sval­bard in mid-May, it is some days befo­re they con­ti­nue to the actu­al bree­ding are­as. Advent­da­len is an important res­ting site for the first days after the spring migra­ti­on, and other are­as with high den­si­ties of Pink-foo­ted geese inclu­de Sas­senda­len, Cole­s­da­len, Reinda­len, Nor­dens­kiöld­kys­ten (the west coast bet­ween Isfjord and Bellsund), the west coast north of Isfjord (Daud­mann­søy­ra) and sou­thern Dick­son Land.

Pink-footed geese in Adventdalen, late May

Pink-foo­ted geese in Advent­da­len after their spring migra­ti­on, late May.

Bio­lo­gy: Lea­ves and buds are on the menu of Pink-foo­ted geese. They arri­ve in the bree­ding are­as in mid or late May and breed indi­vi­du­al­ly or in small colo­nies on the tun­dra near cliffs. In ear­ly June, the fema­le will lay two to five, excep­tio­nal­ly even seven eggs and sit for almost four weeks. The male does not direct­ly take part, but will guard the nest and defend it if necessa­ry.

Pink-footed geese and arctic fox

Pink-foo­ted geese guar­ding their nest against an arc­tic fox.

The young birds lea­ve the nest quick­ly and will have learnt to fly at an age of two mon­ths. Moul­ting of the adults takes place in July. During moul­ting, they can­not fly and will form lar­ger flocks for safe­ty, until they fly back south in Sep­tem­ber. The fami­ly will stay tog­e­ther until the next spring migra­ti­on.

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: The Pink-foo­ted goo­se is the most nume­rous goo­se in Sval­bard, but is hun­ted both the­re and in the win­te­ring are­as and is thus qui­te shy; they may lea­ve the nest when dis­tur­bed even from a distance of more than a kilo­met­re! Expo­sed eggs or chicks are likely to be taken by pre­d­a­tors such as Glau­cous gulls or Arc­tic foxes; Pink-foo­ted geese are at hig­her risk than other geese in Sval­bard due to their low thres­hold against dis­tur­ban­ce. Be as care­ful as pos­si­ble in sen­si­ti­ve are­as (see abo­ve) at rele­vant times or try to avoid the­se are­as altog­e­ther. Keep your distance from nests and moul­ting birds. Resist the desi­re to approach to take pho­tos. You can see easi­ly them in lar­ge num­bers next to the road in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en in late May.

Pink-footed geese and arctic fox

Peace­ful life in the arc­tic tun­dra: Spits­ber­gen-rein­de­er and pink-foo­ted geese.

The popu­la­ti­on has incre­a­sed signi­fi­cant­ly from about 20,000 in the 1970s to 60,000 in 2007 and this trend will pro­bab­ly con­ti­nue, espe­cial­ly if tem­pe­ra­tures keep rising due to cli­ma­tic chan­ges. Pink-foo­ted geese could then occur in hig­her num­bers in are­as along the west coast of Spits­ber­gen and the tun­dra are­as of sou­thwes­tern Edgeøya.

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last modification: 2019-02-16 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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