The goose is a small goose with almost dark plumage and a contrasting white back. There are two main forms: pot-bellied and pale. Pot-bellied are found on the south and east coasts of Great Britain, they have a dark gray belly and sides. Pale-bellied are found in North East England, but individual birds will venture farther south and have pale flanks and belly in marked contrast to the black chest.
Origin view and description
The goose's name comes from the Old Norse “brandgas” meaning “burnt goose”, referring to the dark coloration of this northern goose. It is a small goose 55–65 cm long or about the size of a mallard. Its plumage is a simple three-color pattern: a dark brown back and wings, a white belly and tail, and a dark black chest, neck, head, and beak.
The adult goose also has a small spot of white on the top of the neck. As it dabbles in shallow water, turning upside down to reach water weeds, the goose makes a remarkable transformation — the dark brown goose turns bright white and the tail sticks up in the air. It can be distinguished from the Canada Goose by its shorter neck, lack of a white chinstrap, dark chest, and distinctive four-note call.
When in flight, the adult dark goose always shows the strongest contrast of the lower body towards the back of the bird, between the dark hind belly and the white underspreads. However, the upper parts are equally important, which in the dark goose are cold ash-gray or gray-brown. Compared to the dark, pale goose may appear perhaps slightly shorter-necked with a shorter, “barrel-shaped” body. Such differences, however, are subtle and hard identification based solely on plumage.
Black goose hybrids are rare but regular: some notable individuals return to traditional winter habitats and bring second-generation hybrids. The hybrids resemble black shoots but show distinct subtle gray tints throughout, with gray tint on the white sides and gray tints in the upper parts. However, their appearance varies greatly depending on the light.
Fun fact: The oldest recorded goose was a female, over 27 years and 6 months old. She was found in Washington.
Appearance and Features
Allocate dark and pale, black and gray goose. Although they are now officially classified as subspecies, the differences between the various forms of goose are greater than between many full-fledged species, and amount to much more than a dark or pale belly.
- dark goose. The belly of an adult dark goose is smoky grey-brown in color, with paler upper and posterior flanks caused by greyish-white pubescence. However, some birds can look surprisingly pale underneath, especially if they are misaligned with the rest of the flock or are lit in strong sunlight. Dark-bellied geese are most pale in spring and this is the time of year when the risk of misidentification is greatest;
- pale goose. Adult pale geese have indeed very pale bellies and flanks. On many specimens these patches are bright chalky white, but on others they are pale brown. Thus, the belly contrasts markedly with the black chest and upper parts. The area between the legs is completely white, so on a flying bird the attractive contrast is always directed towards its front, between the black chest and the whitish belly. The upper parts of pale goose are always a distinct medium brown rather than grey, so in mixed groups it is sometimes easiest to distinguish them by the color of the upper parts. Although they are similar in size and structure to other forms of goose, some (perhaps especially the males) often appear rather squat with large, rather angular heads;
- black goose. Adult black geese show very strong contrasts with black and white plumage, which are best appreciated in dim light. The white collar of the neck is strong and deep, and the upper and hind flanks are strikingly bright white, albeit with gray vertical lining. The belly is a very dark earthy brown, appearing black in dim light, and contrasting little with the black chest and upperparts. The area between the legs is dark, like that of the sooty goose, so that in flight it is difficult to distinguish black goose in herds. The upper part of the body is dark brown, without gray shades;
- gray goose. Its appearance is variable, combining features of the pale and black Cossacks, leading to speculation that it may be an all-season form, but it has been proposed as an active subspecies based on DNA analysis as well as morphology.
Where does the goose live?
Goose live in close proximity to the coast and the ocean. Their favorite habitats — mouths of rivers that rise and fall with the tides. Firths usually have a sandbar or strip of land that protects them from waves, and is also usually connected to a river or stream. These estuaries usually grow a wide variety of algae and aquatic vegetation. They also migrate to the cold tundra along the coast to breed.
There is one population of Barnacle Goose breeding in the northernmost tundra of central Siberia, migrating across the Baltic and wintering mainly around the southern North Sea and northwestern France. In Britain, it winters mainly between the mouths of the Humber and Exe. Pale goose consist of three populations, two of which reach Britain. One of these breeds lives in Svalbard and Franz Josef Land and winters in Denmark and Northumberland. Another population breeds in northern Greenland and northeastern Canada, migrates through Iceland, and winters mainly in Ireland and westernmost Britain.
The third population breeds in the central part of the Arctic and winters on the American Atlantic coast. Extraordinary records in southeast England likely come from the Svalbard population, although individuals accompanying other geese from the northwest (such as pink-footed geese) are more likely to come from Greenland or Canada. The black goose breeds in the Arctic, Canada, Alaska and Eastern Siberia. Siberian Birds — annual winter visitors to southeast England with dark geese, while Canadian birds reach Ireland with pale geese.
The fourth population of goose — the grey, which breeds primarily on Melville and Prince Patrick Islands in western high arctic Canada, has also been recognized, although its taxonomic status remains uncertain and has no scientific name. The gray goose is not on the British list, but several birds apparently of this type have occurred in Ireland, and one or two of them have also been suspected in the UK. Given that its breeding area borders the Canada Pale Goose, it most likely originated from Ireland and the West.
Now you know where the goose is found. Let's see what the black goose eats.
What does the goose eat?
Historically, the goose fed almost exclusively on eel, which is still strongly favored by it when available. Now they also forage on pastures and have been able to diversify their diet in the absence of eels, although their range is still closely related to them. The goose also feeds on aquatic invertebrates.
The goose is primarily a herbivore, feeding on grasses, mosses and lichens, as well as aquatic vegetation in the breeding grounds. During the breeding season, goose feed on various land plants such as scurvy (Cochlearia) and mosses, although they also feed on various algae in sea water. During the winter months, algae is their main diet. They also graze on land.
Like most geese, — excellent swimmers adapted to life on the surface of the water. Instead of diving, they feed at low tide by pulling the eel up from the bottom. To ensure feeding at high tide, when the water is too deep for them to reach their favorite food underwater, they stay on the surface.
In shallow water, the goose swims very well and makes jumps to reach the vegetation. They feed in large flocks, as well as in the water and coastal meadows along estuaries. They live in dense groups in sheltered bays and coastal waters.
Personalities and Lifestyles
Relatively little is known about the lifestyle of this species. They nest on flat areas of the tundra near ponds and lakes, as well as on islands. During migration and in winter, geese are more closely associated with the coast than other geese, and they often spend time in the delta or in shallow sea areas.
Goose are social birds and should have plenty of space and lots of companions. They need a lot of space to graze, as well as a lot of water. Their water source must also grow underwater vegetation.
No other geese nest as far north as the goose, and few migrate as far. These small geese are common in coastal areas in summer and winter. Most bird watchers know them from watching their hibernating flocks along the coasts. Traveling between their summer and winter outposts, they can fly at high altitude, crossing vast expanses of land or the open ocean.
The goose has strong wings that perform quick strikes. They fly in a compact herd or oblique line, sometimes in a well-opened V-formation. During migration they fly low from the water. During flight, a white shard is often conspicuous.
Fun fact: Goose make a low, guttural, rolling sound in flight. This nasal sound is almost analogous to a grunt or a deep, rolling bark and is carried for considerable distances.
In North America, geese winter along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Baja California and the Mexican mainland, and along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina (mainly from New Jersey to North Carolina).
Since the mid-1960s 1990s, more than 80% of the estimated winter population of Russia, Japan, and North America lived in Baja California and other parts of northwestern Mexico. Goose winter mainly in swampy marine habitats, along lagoons and estuaries, in shallow bays.
Social structure and reproduction
In the high latitudes where these geese breed, the good season for the breeding cycle is generally too short, and mating and courtship often occur in wintering areas or when migrating to breeding grounds. They perform some defensive displays by walking with their head and neck extended forward, in an almost horizontal position, showing white neck patches. Goose breed once a year during the best period with good weather conditions. The pair usually travel together to the breeding grounds and remain paired for life.
They nest in colonies and this behavior is primarily protective against predation by bears, foxes, gulls and skuas. The display between the two partners includes ritual postures and movements prior to copulation, which usually takes place on the water. Goose nest in solitary pairs or in loose colonies. There is competition between geese and the more dominant barnacle goose for nesting sites. The nest is a shallow depression, usually located on an elevation in the terrain, and is lined with plant material and down.
Egg laying usually occurs in mid-June. Three to five eggs are yellow-white and are incubated by the female for 24–26 days. The male is always near the nest. The geese leave the nest shortly after the chicks hatch, and the juveniles fledge after about six weeks. Just at the time when they fledge, adults change their plumage, remaining unable to fly for several weeks. During this period they are very timid and very sensitive to disturbances. Like other goose species, parents stay with their young through the winter and until spring migration the following year. Goose reach sexual maturity at the age of two or three years.
Natural enemies of goose
The natural enemies of geese are:
- polar bears;
- Arctic foxes;
- glaucous gulls;
- Arctic skuas
They all hunt goose eggs and chicks. The actual predator of geese is rarely observed in the field and therefore the role of predators is often greatly underestimated. Species are restricted in their distribution, which is not predisposed by the anti-predator behavior that subspecies evolved under constant predation selection.
Interesting fact: To avoid predation, goose actively limit their habitat. The Arctic genus is limited by the predatory and predator-avoidant behavior of the geese, which limits their population size.
The biggest threat to goose — loss and degradation of winter habitats due to human development, encroachment and disturbance of their habitat. Goose were once a favorite game, and every spring and autumn thousands of individuals were shot during their migration. This constant persecution has led to a sharp decline in the population. Luckily, goose are now legally protected and their current population is relatively stable.
Several important factors influence the health of a bird population, including protective habitat, nesting habitat, food, and water. Goose depend on a healthy diet of eels, their main food source. Where their populations have been wiped out or greatly reduced, in some of the geese populations the number of individuals has fallen to such an extent that they have never recovered.
Population and species status
The world population of geese is 570,000 individuals, mainly in Europe and 125,000 in France. Since the 1960s, the goose has been found in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, but at first only in a small number of a few individuals. Since 1970, groups of 50 animals have been regularly observed in this area. During this period, from 50 to 400 geese were observed in November and February. These days the stay of the geese was short. The continuous stay of geese during the entire wintering period has been observed since the winter of 1976-77.
From 1978 to 1979, the number of geese increased rapidly, and in 1982 it exceeded 3,000 individuals. The population curve calculated in mid-January shows that, despite fluctuations between years, there has been an increase in the population in the 1990s, then a stabilization since the 2000s.
This species has an extremely large range and, therefore, does not approach the thresholds for vulnerable in terms of range size (30% prevalence declines over ten years or three generations). The geese population is very large and therefore does not approach the thresholds for being vulnerable in terms of population size (10% in ten years, three generations or with a defined population structure). For these reasons, the species is rated as Least Concern.
The goose is a small dark goose that is found throughout much of the northern hemisphere. Unlike other goose species, the goose is characterized by extensive use of natural coastal habitats outside the breeding season. Three to four subspecies are recognized based on plumage characteristics.