In the past, there were not that many greylag geese, but the population has been growing strongly, and greylag geese can now be seen in droves all over Denmark.

Humans tamed the wild greylag goose for its eggs, meat and down, but today the greylag goose does not have a major role in agriculture. On the other hand, it does so for hunters, who have been bagging increasing numbers in recent years.


Description


The greylag goose, or Anser anser by its Latin name, is the largest goose in the group of grey geese.

It has a mottled grey and white plumage, orange beak and pink legs.

The greylag goose is 90 cm in length, weighs 3-4 kg and has a wingspan of 175 cm.

The gander – the male – is slightly larger than the goose.

Greylag geese are very noisy. You can hear an approaching flock of geese from a long way off, and they are also very talkative when they are on land and in the water.


Reproduction

Greylag geese are monogamous and usually pair for life. They build their nests on the ground in tall grass, reeds or on small floating islands of vegetation out on the water. The nest is lined with feathers and down, and the goose lays an average of six eggs, each measuring about 6 x 9 cm. The incubation period is about 28 days, and while the goose is sitting on the eggs, the gander keeps guard.

Both parents are involved in caring for the chicks. After two months, the chicks are fully-fledged, which coincides with the adults regaining their ability to fly after moulting their main wing and tail feathers a month earlier.


Diet

Greylag geese are herbivores and feed chiefly on grasses. Short, actively growing grass and grain is more nutritious than old grass, so greylag geese can often be seen grazing in pastures with sheep, horses or cows. Newly cut grass is also part of their menu, and flocks of greylags can often also be seen in parks.

Because there are few nutrients in grass, geese have to spend a lot of time foraging. The herbage passes rapidly through the gut, and they therefore produce large amounts of excrement, which is far from popular in parks and on playing fields. When a flock of hungry geese lands on the fields, they can wreak havoc on the crops, so in many places, permission is often sought to regulate the greylag in order to minimise crop damage.


Where does the greylag goose breed?

The greylag goose is found in a broad swathe across the northern hemisphere, with the birds migrating north every year to breed. Warmer winters and green fields for most of the year have meant that the populations of both non-migratory and breeding birds have risen markedly in recent years in Denmark.

The geese arrive at the end of February in large flocks, with courting beginning in March and April. As the population of breeding birds increases, the geese have to find new nesting sites, and goose nests are increasingly being found in the strangest places. However, they usually nest close to the water, which they can escape to during the moulting period.


Hunting

In August, the geese gather again in flocks to move towards the coasts, and some of them start to fly south. The hunting season for greylag geese starts on 1 September, so when the geese leave the fields and meadows in the last week of August, you would almost believe they were aware of the date.

The greylag goose can be hunted all autumn, but the high season is in September and October, when migrating flocks also arrive in Denmark from northern Scandinavia.


More and more hunters have become aware of goose hunting and the excitement it offers hand in hand with the increasing number of birds. Likewise, the range of gear and equipment for goose hunting has also been growing. Greylag geese are extremely fine birds, but very vigilant, and it is therefore important to be well hidden and to have sufficient patience to wait until the geese are in range.

Geese are large birds, and many people therefore try shooting them from too far away, believing mistakenly that the geese are closer than they actually are. Geese fly at high speed, and this, combined with their strong feathers and a thick layer of down, makes them very resilient to shot. Therefore, you should never try shooting a goose more than 25 metres away – and preferably with large shot and fast cartridges.


Which equipment?

When it comes to equipment, the most important thing is to obtain a good hide. There are boxes on the market where you can jump up like a jack-in-the-box when the geese are close enough. In other words, you lie down in the covered boxes and only open the lid once the geese are in range. A number of good-quality decoys will improve your chances considerably, while a goose call can persuade a flock of greylag geese to change direction and land right in front of your hide.

A retriever which can handle large birds is a must, because a wounded greylag can glide long distances on stiff wings.


Goose on the table

Greylag geese taste delicious. If you have the patience and the prudence to pluck a whole goose or two so that the skin is intact, nothing beats a Christmas dinner of long-roasted wild geese served with red wine sauce, redcurrant jelly, a Waldorf salad and sugar-browned and boiled potatoes.

You can also fillet the breasts and fry them as steaks, or serve smoked goose breast as a starter. It is important to remember that there is not as much meat on a wild goose as on a fattened tame goose, so you will need two instead of one bird.


Facts - Greylag goose


Geese bagged :
2010/2011: 38,700
2016/2017: 59,706
Up more than 20,000 in six years!

Hunting season: 1 September – 31 January

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