Arctic Species: Pink-footed Goose

The last of the three goose species on Spitsbergen: the Pink-footed Goose. Being a member of the Anser-genus, they are clearly different from the two ‘Brantas’ (Barnacle and Brent Geese). They are larger and have an overall brown colouration. Their heads are slightly darker as their necks, making them different from the other members of their genus (which are all very rare on Spitsbergen).

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Breeding Pink-footed Goose

Being larger as Barnacle and Brent Geese, they can defend themselves against Arctic Foxes, allowing them to breed all over the tundra. Usually, they pick their sites just underneath bird cliffs as those have the most food available for the chicks when they hatch.

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Moulting Pink-footed Geese swimming

Just as other species of goose, adult Pink-feet moult all their flight feathers at once. This means they can’t fly for around four weeks. This sounds silly, but it does make sense. Unlike passerines, geese don’t have to bring food to their chicks. They just walk their little family to a nice lush part of the tundra where the goslings can feed for themselves. As the parents will not leave their goslings, they don’t need to fly, so it actually makes sense to moult their feathers during this time. Their timing is such that they can fly again when the goslings are ready to fly, and they have to get back to their wintering grounds between Denmark and the Netherlands.

 

 

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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