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Geese

color:

males and females same color

eating habit:

grazing

characteristics:

mate for life

habitat:

water-rich regions

  • Dut: Ganzen
  • Lat: Anatidae
  • Eng: Geese
  • Ger: Gänse
Barnacle goose, Jeroen Reneerkens (jeroenreneerkens@hetnet.nl

Geese

Nowhere else in Europe do you see so many geese as in the Netherlands. Most are seen during the winter. They arrive from their northern nesting areas to graze on the salt marshes and meadows. More than 2 million geese spend the winter in the Netherlands every year. When a flock of geese fly, they do that in a V formation. People used to say that it was a sign that winter was approaching. Nowadays, lots of geese are also found in the Netherlands during the summer.

On Texel


The greylag goose, barnacle goose and Egyptian goose breed on Texel. The white-fronted goose, the tundra bean goose and the brent goose are common migrants or winter guests. It is more rare to find other geese species here. Sometimes, an exotic species broods here, such as the Canadian goose.

  • Goose migration
    Greylag goose, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    Many geese are migratory birds; they nest in the high north and migrate south in the winter. Every year, some species fly around 5000 kilometers twice a year. In early October, the first winter guests arrive in the Netherlands. The Wadden Sea together with the delta region form the most important overwintering areas for the barnacle goose, the brent goose and the greylag goose. There is sufficient food during the day on the marshes and grasslands, while the water (particularly lakes and rivers) offers a safe place to sleep at night. 

    After mid March, most of these geese migrate to their nesting grounds in Scandinavia (greylags) or the north of Russia (barnacle and brent geese). Because the sun shines day and night during Arctic summers, the geese readily spot approaching enemies. The grass also grows continually, providing lots of fresh food for the young chicks. Not all geese species go north in the summer. In 2008, 13 species of geese nested in the Netherlands, including the greylag and the barnacle goose.

  • V formation

    Flocks of geese almost always fly in a V formation. By flying this way, they use less energy and retain their field of vision. They can make use of the whirling air created by the wing movement of the leading geese. The bird in front has the heaviest job, but the geese are keep changing places. Geese are very social animals. By flying in a V formation and not directly behind one another, the birds are able to keep track of all the others as well as communicate during the flight. Geese are constantly honking to one another. You often hear them coming from a distance. Studies have shown that geese fly 70% further when flying in a V formation than when flying solo!

  • Damage from geese
    Brent geese, foto fitis, adriaan dijksen

    Geese can cause a lot of damage for farmers when they consume all the young shoots of grass. Particularly brooding geese cause the problem in the Netherlands. Therefore, there are several methods applied to limit the damage. Designating land for geese and pricking eggs so that they don't hatch seem to be the most effective. Removing the eggs from the nest does not work since geese continue to lay eggs if the nest is empty. Hunting geese has been forbidden since 2000, although locally special licenses are given to prevent damage. Farmers receive compensation when they allow geese to graze on their land.

  • Escaped geese

    In the Netherlands, there are quite a few geese that have escaped from captivity. These are species that are kept at farms or in parks for their decorative markings. In the meantime, there are more than 5000 pairs of Egyptian geese, around 100 pairs of bar-headed geese and more than 1000 pairs of Canadian geese breeding in this country. None of these species originated in Europe, but they feel very much at home here. In addition, their population is growing rapidly.

    Despite their unusual looks, not everyone is happy with these newcomers. These deorative human-bred birds no longer feel the urge to migrate, so that they stay in the Netherlands the entire year. This only adds to the farmers' problem with their crops being grazed. Sometimes they mate with wild geese from other species, whereby the characteristics of the wild geese are lost. And they aren't too shy to pinch the best nesting places so that the wild geese are unable to find a good spot to build.