Reddish Vale Country Park

Barnacle Goose

All images, copyright, Stockport Nature.Com

Barnacle geese migrate to Britain and Ireland in the winter, to escape the harsher climates of Greenland and Svalbard Island.


Barnacle geese have a black chest, neck and crown, with a cream-white face.The sexes are similar in appearance, but males typically are larger.The extension of black from the neck over the head gives the face a hooded appearance.The upper back is black, shading posterior to silver-gray. The breast, sides and flanks are a pale gray and the belly, undertail coverts and rump are white, contrasting markedly with the large black tail.The bill, legs and feet are black.


Barnacle geese breed along the northeast coast of Greenland, Svalbard, Norway and Novaya Zemlya, and adjacent Vaygach Island, Russia. Barnacle geese nest in small colonies among rocky crags or on cliffs and islands and lay an average of 4-6 eggs.


The Greenland population of barnacle geese winter in Ireland and the Inner and Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The Svalbard population largely winters in the Solway Firth between England and Scotland. The Russian population winters in the Netherlands and Germany. In North America, infrequent appearances by barnacle geese have been restricted to the east, including Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Ohio and Michigan.


Barnacle geese feed on grasses and coastal plants found in salt marshes, grasslands near river estuaries or tidal mud flats.


The sudden appearance of the adult geese, with no prior sign of nesting or goslings, gave rise in folklore to the story that barnacle geese either grew on trees or developed from the goose barnacles found on driftwood.

'there is a small llande in Lancashire called the Pile of Foulders whereon is found a certaine spume or froth, that in time breedeth unto certaine shels.


These mussel shaped shells would grow until they split open, revealing the legs of the Birde hanging out, til at length it is all come foorth. The bird would hang by its bill until fully mature, then would drop into the sea.


Where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a foule, bigger than a Mallard, and lesser than a Goose'.

Engraving on Wood, from the "Cosmographie Universelle" of Munster, folio, Basle, 1552.

This myth was popular until the 18th century and as early as the 13th century.

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Length 64cm,

Wingspan 138cm,

Weight 1.7kg,

Maximum recorded lifespan 26 yrs, 11 months,

Diet, grass.

Up to 67,000 individuals in winter.

Reddish Vale Country Park

Barnacle Goose