Guide to Britain’s geese: how to identify and where to see

In autumn and winter, geese are a familiar site in the UK's estuaries, marshes and wetlands - learn all about these majestic birds, including identification, migration patterns and the best places to see them

Flock of barnacle geese

As autumn progresses, the last stragglers of the summer visitors leave British shores while winter migrants arrive to feed in our estuaries, marshes and reservoirs.

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The most impressive – and vocal – are geese, which mingle with resident species to create an impressive spectacle as they gather to feed on seeds, grass, potatoes and small invertebrates.

Canada geese at sunset
Visit a marsh or estuary near you this winter for a chance of spotting Canada geese/Credit: Getty

Get to know Britain’s geese with our simple identification guide, including UK population numbers, migration routes and favourite habitats.

White-fronted goose

White-fronted goose, Anser albifrons
White-fronted goose, Anser albifrons/Credit: Getty

Some 15,000 white-fronts visit our coasts from Scotland to southern England having summered in Greenland and Siberia. Siberian birds have pink bills, Greenland birds’ bills are orange. The ‘white-fronted’ refers to the forehead and base of the bill.


Barnacle goose

Barnacle Goose in marshland
Barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis/Credit: Getty

This small goose has a creamy face, short bill and black neck and winters in Scotland, Ireland and northern England after breeding in Greenland and Svalbard. There’s a small resident breeding group of 1,000 pairs. Winter population is 90,000.

Puffin in flight

Brent goose

Brent Goose, Branta bernicla
Brent goose, Branta bernicla/Credit: Getty

Little bigger than a mallard, this dark-plumaged goose is most concentrated along the east coast, especially East Anglia. Over 90–100,000 arrive in winter from their nesting grounds in Siberia, feeding noisily on coastal marshes.


Greylag goose

Greylag goose
Greylag goose, Anser anser/Credit: Getty

Our largest and most common resident goose has grey plumage and an orange bill; 140,000 resident birds are bolstered by 90,000 winter arrivals from Iceland. The core breeding population of ‘wild geese’ is in Scotland.


Canada goose

Canada goose
Canada goose, Branta canadensis/Credit: Getty

Introduced from North America, there are now 62,000 pairs in the UK and the number is growing. Large and with a brown body and black neck, it has become the UK’s most familiar goose of park lakes. It is seen as a pest in some areas.


Bean goose

Bean goose
Bean goose/Credit: Getty

Two similar species, the taiga and the tundra bean goose winter in Scotland and eastern England in small numbers (fewer than 500 individuals of each species). Both species are dark grey-brown with orange legs and bills.


Pink-footed goose

Pink-footed goose
Pink-footed goose, Anser brachyrhynchus/Credit: Getty

This medium-sized goose resembles the white-fronted but has a dark face and bill and pink legs. Arriving from Greenland and Iceland, around 300,000 winter on the east coast, especially Norfolk, though some 50,000 choose Lancashire’s coast.


Egyptian goose

Egyptian goose
Egyptian goose, Alopochen aegyptiaca/Credit: Getty
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This exotic-looking species has a brown eye patch and a blend of pale, brown and grey plumage. An escapee from ornamental collections, there are now 1,100 breeding pairs across the UK.