Greylag goose Anser anser

The greylag goose is the largest breed of wild goose native to the British Isles. They have large bulky bodies and short pink legs. They have a pale grey chest, dark grey wings and a brown head and neck. In the UK, most greylag geese are from the Western distribution of the species and therefore have an orange bill, whereas birds from the Eastern distribution more commonly have pale pink bills.


The greylag goose’s preferred habitat is farmland, wetland and grassland, as well as moorland and freshly sown cereal fields when nesting. They eat grasses, roots, seeds and cereal grains. While these geese are usually sociable, they become very violent when nesting. Larger birds are the most common threat for these geese, foxes are also known to eat their eggs and occasionally the birds themselves.


  • Length: 75 – 90cm
  • Weight: 2.7 – 4kg
  • Wingspan: 1.5-1.8m
  • Average lifespan: 12 years


Common in Scotland.


Found around Scotland’s coast, wintering birds from Northern areas can be seen in lowland areas.

When to see

Year round, with more birds present over winter.


  • After breeding season the geese moult all their feathers which are then replaced by new ones. Unfortunately, the birds are flightless for about a month while they wait for their new feathers to grow in.
  • This species of geese is one of the last species to migrate, gaining them the name greylag, as they ‘lag’ behind the other migrating geese.
  • On the 29th of September, known as Michaelmas, the greylag goose was traditionally eaten in the remembrance of the archangel St. Michael.

Common name

Greylag goose

Species name

Anser anser

IUCN Red List status

Least concern

When to see in Scotland

Year round, with more birds present over winter.

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Bemersyde Moss or Montrose Basin.

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