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.
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.
Learn more about the UK’s geese species with our simple identification guide, including population numbers, migration routes and favourite habitats.
What is a group of geese called?
A group of geese on the ground is known as a gaggle. During flight a group of geese is called a skein.
How to identify geese species found in the UK
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Where do geese migrate to from the UK?
Geese migrate to Britain in autumn, overwintering on our shores before leaving once more in spring.
The different species migrate to different locations, including Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard.
What do geese eat?
As grazing birds, geese eat a variety of plants and seeds, including grass and roots found along the water’s edge.