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The Greylag Goose (also spelled Graylag in the United States), 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.


Greylag geese (Anser anser) in flight.
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 Chinamarker.

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 the "lag" portion of its name is said to derive from this lagging behind other geese.

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

In Norwaymarker, the number of greylag geese is estimated to have increased three- to fivefold during the last 15–20 years. As a consequence, farmers' problems caused by goose 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.

Hybrid with Domestic Goose

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.

As for wild Greylag from Europe, it has recently been determined that at least one wild Greylag has visited North America. One bird was found alive on a stationary ship in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador from spring, 2005.


  1. American Heritage Dictionary, graylag, noun.

External links


Image:Greyleg Geese I IMG 8223.jpg| At Bharatpurmarker, Rajasthanmarker, Indiamarker.Image:Greylag Geese I-Bharatpur IMG 8225.jpg| At Bharatpurmarker, Rajasthanmarker, Indiamarker.Image:Greygoose.jpgImage:Greylag Goose (Anser anser).jpg|Image:Anser anser (aka).jpg|Image:Husa velká.jpg|Image:Greylag_goose_flying.jpg|Image:GeeseFlyingOxford20050326 CopyrightKaihsuTai.jpg|Image:Greylag Goose in St James's Park, London - May 2006.jpg|A Greylag Goose in St James's Park, London, England in May 2006Image:Graugans (Anser anser).jpg|A Greylag Googe mugshot taken at the Rhine in Bonn, GermanyImage:Pentlands - April '07 270.JPG|A pair of Greylag Geese by a Pentland Hillsmarker reservoir, Scotlandmarker.Image:wildgansflug.jpg|Image:Greylag_in_Michigan_2008.jpg|Greylag in Michigan 2/2/2008Image:Greylag_Goose_Grauwe_Gans.JPG|Probably hybrid with Domestic Goose: note bulky head and neck with vestigial pattern.

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