Pink-footed Goose


Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus [Baillon, 1834]

(Extremely rare PM & WV)

Adult Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus, Holt Farm, Blagdon, North Somerset © Nigel Milbourne, 2011

  1. One, not aged, 8th-15th Feb. 1986 (D.E. Poole et al.).
  2. Adult, 22nd Oct. to 18th Dec. 1999 (R.G. Palmer, A.H.Davis et al.).
  3. Five, not aged, 18th Nov. 2001 (N.R. Milbourne).*
  4. Adult, 31st May to 9th June 2002 (N.R. Milbourne et al.).
  5. Four, two adults & two juvs., 10th Dec. 2011 to 23rd Feb. 2012 (N.R. Milbourne et al. Photographed).
  6. Two adults, 29th-31st Dec. 2013 (N.R. Milbourne, S. Hale et al.), & 17th Feb. 2014 (N.R. Milbourne).
  7. One, adult, 24th-26th Nov. 2019 (M. Hynam, N.R. Milbourne, R. Mielcarek.).

On 8th January 1839, at a meeting of the Zoological Society, Mr A.D. Bartlett described what he thought was a new species of goose in the genus Anser with pink feet. He proposed a new name reflecting this, but Baillon (1834) had already named it Anser brachyrhynchus which refers to the short bill rather than the pink leg colour. "Pink-footed Geese were observed to be not uncommon in the London market during the winters of 1838, 1839, and 1840" (Yarrell, 1884-1885).

Quite a lot of work has recently been carried out on Bean Goose - Pink-footed Goose taxonomy and currently Pink-footed and Bean Geese are recognised species in Britain. Sangster and Oreel (1996) proposed three species; Pink-footed, Tundra, and Taiga Bean Geese. Ruokonen et al (2008) suggested three species, albeit different to Sangster and Oreel, based on mitochondrial DNA and other criteria. They proposed Pink-footed, Bean and Middendorff's Geese be recognised. Ruokonen (2011) revisited the Bean Goose taxonomy to look at historical taxa but didn't find any support for changes to the three species he'd already proposed.

There are two breeding populations of Pinkfeet in East Greenland/Iceland and Svalbard. It is thought that the original population of Pink-foooted Goose arose in Svalbard and that the Greenland/Iceland population split latterly. Kear (2005) states that most recent evidence suggests the two populations have a similar body size but that the Greenland/Iceland population tend to have longer wings although they do not differ enough in appearance to be separated taxonomically. The Greenland and Iceland population winters mainly in Britain and, to a lesser extent Ireland, while the Svalbard population winters along the coast of western Europe from Denmark to Belgium. There are two English wintering centres; on the Lancashire coast and East Anglia. WeBS and roost counts have shown a massive population increase from circa 10,000 in the 1950s to almost 300,000 birds in 2004-05 (Rowell, 2005) with a particularly sharp increase that started in the mid to late 1980s. The latest figures in Waterbirds in the UK 2009/10 give a maximum count of 355,177 in October 2009, so the population increase continues at over 3% per annum.

All the records at the lake have occurred during recent years and seem to reflect the population increase so we can, perhaps, expect more in future, albeit birds that have become detached from wintering flocks. The record of five flying over the lake to the west on 18th November 2001 was not submitted to the AOG Recorder's Committee for consideration. The bird found on 31st May 2002 could have been an escape although there was nothing to indicate this, but by the same token it could have been a wild bird as some (<50) Pinkfeet summer in the UK (WeBS data). When looking at the non-naturalised bird population in Britain, Rowell et al (2004) found a total of 33 individuals at twenty sites in 2000 compared with a total of 88 birds at 29 sites in 1991 (Delany, 1993).

Bibliography (sources of information)

  1. Davis, A.H. (ed.). Avon Bird Report, 1999. Avon Ornithological Group.
  2. Rose, Dr H.E. (ed.). Avon Bird Report, 2011. Avon Ornithological Group.
  3. Taylor, S.M. (ed.). Avon Bird Report, 1986. Avon Ornithological Group.

Updated 26 November, 2019