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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose (Partially leucistic/pied)

Anser anser


Photography © Suzanne Harris
Callanish - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
6th August 2008

"Saw this goose with a flock of greylags just as it was getting dark. As the others settled this one stayed to the outside edge of the group. I reckon it is a greylag with albinoism (hybrid?), if anyone else has any other ideas or comments please email"

"I would say the bird in the photos is a Leucistic Greylag, probably not a hybrid, and certainly not a true albino.

One of the birds adults and most probabaly both must have been carrying a recessive Leucistic, or pied gene.
It is highly unlikely but if the photographed bird happened to breed with one of its parents then a percentage, i think possibly 50% would be pied and although the remaining offspring would look like normal Greylags, they would be carrying the recessive pied, or leucistic gene.
Its been a while since i had any real involvment with this sort of thing, so I am not sure if this is accurate. However i dont think i will be far of the mark?

clear as mud?


Extract from an educator's web site:

"....A true albino has pink eyes because, since there is no pigment in the iris,
all you see is the blood is the eye. If the animal has blue eyes, it means
that a small amount of melanin is being produce in the iris...."


Below are close-ups of the eye of a typical greylag goose (left) and the partially leucistic greylag (right) - the iris of the leucistic is blue - not pink as an albino's would be...


Found an in depth article on Birdforum about abnormal colouration which more fully describes the difference between albino and leucistic:
Read the full article here: http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=28261&postcount=11

Later addition from Frank:
"...Also, i,m almost certain that the pied gene in most birds is sex-linked. Males looking normal can carry the pied gene or they can look completely pied. The pied gene in a female cannnot be hidden and a female carrying the pied gene looks like the bird in youir photograph..."



Our Greylag Goose photographs

Greylag Goose
Greylag Goose
Greylag Geese
Greylag Geese
Greylag Goose
Greylag Goose
Partially leucistic
(white areas)


Greylag geese pair for life and can live for up to 22 years.
BTO estimate 3200 wild pairs in the UK in summer

Most Greyag Geese fly North to Iceland to breed.



Greylag Goose records in the Western Isles

Fairly common resident breeder (100-999 breeding pairs) and fairly common passage (occurs in small numbers) (Icelandic population).
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Greylag Goose is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)


In the Western Isles we have a remnant of the Scottish breeding population of Greylag Geese, and although other populations have arisen in Scotland, it is believed that the resident Greylag Geese in the Uists are the purest breed.

After the Second World War, in the Uists Greylag Geese were almost extinct, with just an isolated group and a few pairs.

Greylag Geese numbers have since vastly increased. They feed on good quality grass areas. (Short grass - grazed) A few years ago many areas of rough grassland in the islands were reseeded, and as their food source increased so did the numbers of Greylag Geese.

Also since the war, less people were shooting the Greylag Geese, there was a decline in poaching, and their predators decreased in number.

In recent years much of the reseeded land has reverted to poor grazing, as fewer people depend upon the land for their living, and so do not maintain it.

The now large numbers of Greylag Geese go to forage the few pockets of good grazing where people are still working the land. Even a few can cause a fair bit of damage to crops.

The traditional crofting ways of growing crops are accepted as part of the cycle which contributes to the enormous conservation interest of the Uist machairs, so a scheme: The Uist Greylag Goose Committee was set up in 1990 to stop the Greylag Geese from breaking the cycle.

The Committee used various methods to extend some control over the Greylag Geese. From bird scarers to organised shooting parties in particulary vulnerable areas.

A few years on and after national consultation a new scheme was set up "The Uist Greylag Goose Scheme" to minimise damage to growing crops.

  • One method tested was a 150 hectare (fertilised) reseed as a Greylag Geese refuge. (discontinued)
  • Paying township Geese Scarers during the vulnerable parts of the growing season (very successful)
  • A full-time Goose Officer appointed to co-ordinate activities between crofters and other interested parties, loan of resources etc.

The Uist Greylag Goose Committee found through trials that a low wire fence around crops was a very successful deterrent.

to be continued ...



Collective nouns for Geese

A nide of geese
A gaggle of geese
A flock of geese
A wedge of geese (flying)
A skein of geese (flying)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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