Barnacle Goose: Medium-sized goose with black and white head, black neck, breast, and tail, white underparts with light gray barring on flanks, dark gray back and wings with black and white barring, and white "u-shaped" rump. Stubby, black bill and black legs. Can show yellow coloration on face.
Range and Habitat
Barnacle Goose: Winter visitor with small numbers also breeding. Seen in western Scotland, and western and northern coastal areas of Ireland from October through March. Often seen on rivers and estuaries and in marshlands. Breeds in arctic areas of Greenland and Russia in summer months.
Geese and Ducks (Anatidae)
The ANSERIFORMES (pronounced an-ser-ih-FOR-meez), one of the oldest avian orders, is composed of three families and includes the bizarre and noisy screamers of South America, the odd Magpie Goose of Australia, and the globally distributed swans, geese, and ducks.
The swans, geese, and ducks are grouped in the Anatidae (pronounced ah-NAH-tih-dee); a bird family with one hundred sixty-four species in forty-eight genera, various members of which can be found on all continents except Antarctica (IOC World Bird List, version 2.3).
The Anatidae are represented in Europe by fifty species in eighteen genera. Members of this well known bird family include the graceful, long-necked swans, familiar geese of farm fields, and the many species of ducks.
While all species are known for their association with aquatic habitats, geese are also known for their aggressive behaviour when guarding their nests and young. After the breeding season, Greylag Geese become better known for the “V" shaped flocks they form during migration.
Swans, geese, and ducks are large birds with long necks (longest in swans, shortest in ducks) and short tails. All species have webbed feet suited to their aquatic environments and distinctive flat bills – except for the mergansers with their thin, serrated bills ideally suited for catching and holding fish.
Although swans and geese are mostly white, brown, and black, many ducks showcase several shades of greys, browns, and blacks combined with fine barring and streaking to result in a variety of beautifully patterned plumages for which females of the species are well known. Males in breeding plumage are more boldly patterned and often have iridescent blue or green on the head. Both sexes usually show a spot of colour on the wing known as a “speculum".
Swans, geese, and ducks occur throughout Europe wherever aquatic habitats are found. While geese and some ducks are often found along the shoreline, species that feed on underwater vegetation such as swans and dabbling ducks prefer calm water with depths suited to the length of their necks. In deeper waters, the mergansers, scoters, and diving ducks occur. Boldly-patterned Harlequin Ducks swim in the swift rivers and turbulent seashores of Iceland.
A highly migratory family, most species migrate to open, ice-free water in sheltered bays and marshes of coastal and southern Europe whereas the Garganey winters in sub-Saharan Africa.
Members of the Anatidae flock together after breeding in large, multi-species groups at sites with good, safe foraging. At such sites, scoters, scaups, and other diving ducks dive for mussels in the deep sections while dabblers such as Gadwall and Northern Shovelers forage on the surface and in the shallows. On the shore, grazers such as geese and Widgeon forage on grass.
There are a few members of this family in Europe of conservation concern. The Red-breasted Goose is listed as globally endangered because its entire population winters at very few sites and has sharply declined in recent years. The White-headed Duck is likewise an endangered species that is threatened by loss of the wetlands it requires and hybridization with the introduced Ruddy Duck. Inhabiting some of the same shallow marshes in Spain as the White-headed Duck, and thus also threatened by habitat loss, is the vulnerable Marbled Duck.
The Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser, and the Smew are often called “sawbills" in reference to the serrated edges of their thin bills that are adapted to catching fish. Regarding the well-known description of the sound made by a duck as a “quack," duck species in Europe also variously whistle, squeak, click, and grunt.