Family Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)

Least Concern

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)


French: Oie cendrée German: Graugans Spanish: Ánsar común

Anas Anser


, 1758,

Europe and northern North America


Subspecies rubrirostris is moderately distinctive, with overall paler plumage and all-pink vs orange bill and eyering; races intergrade in E Europe/W Russia. Has hybridized with many anseriform species, including congeners, Branta leucopsis, Branta canadensis and, rarely, Cygnus olor#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. a. anser (Linnaeus, 1758) – Western Greylag Goose – Iceland, and N & C Europe; winters from Scotland S to N Africa and E to Iran.
  • A. a. rubrirostris Swinhoe, 1871 – Eastern Greylag Goose – from Romania, Turkey and Russia E to NE China; winters mainly from Asia Minor to E China.
  • Captive and feral populations widespread in much of Europe. Introduced (nominate anser) to New Zealand.

    Descriptive notes

    76–89 cm; nominate male 2600–4560 g, female 2070–3960 g; rubrirostris male 2800–4100 g, female 2450–3600 g; wingspan 147–180 cm.... read more


    Loud nasal honking, deeper, more cackling and more raucous than other grey geese and rather similar... read more


    Variety of habitats generally associated with water in open country, often with fringe vegetation... read more

    Food and feeding

    Essentially vegetarian; grass, roots, leaves, stems, seed heads, fruits and sprouts of wide variety of plants, complemented in winter with... read more


    Starts Mar/Apr, in continental Europe and Iceland (nominate) egg-laying starts late Apr, peaking mid May, whereas in UK first eggs late Mar... read more


    A few populations sedentary (e.g. in N Scotland) but most birds move southwards to winter in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Abundant, especially in W Europe, where increasing, with several hundred thousand birds, including an estimated 300,000 feral... read more

    Recommended citation

    Carboneras, C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Greylag Goose (Anser anser). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 December 2019).