Any of several large aquatic birds belonging to the same family as ducks and swans. There are about 12 species, found in North America, Greenland, Europe, North Africa, and Asia north of the Himalayas. Both sexes are similar in appearance: they have short, webbed feet, placed nearer the front of the body than in other members of the family, and a slightly hooked beak. Geese feed entirely on grass and plants, build nests of grass and twigs on the ground, and lay 5-9 eggs, white or cream-coloured, according to the species. (Genera mainly Anser and Branta, family Anatidae, order Anseriformes.)
The barnacle goose (B. leucopsis) is about 60 cm/2 ft long and weighs about 2 kg/4.5 lb. It is black and white, marbled with blue and grey, and the beak is black. The bean goose (A. fabalis) is a grey species of European wild goose with an orange or yellow and black beak. It breeds in northern Europe and Siberia. The Brent goose (B. bernicla) is a small goose, black or brown, white, and grey in colour. The world population of Brent geese was 25,000 in 1996. The greylag goose (A. anser) is the ancestor of domesticated geese.
Other species include the Canada goose (B. canadensis) (common to North America and introduced into Europe in the 18th century), the pink-footed goose (A. brachyrhynchus), the white-fronted goose (A. albifrons), and the ne-ne or Hawaiian goose (B. sandvicensis).
The greylag goose is the only species that nests in Great Britain. It is found in the west of Scotland and in west central Ireland.
Populations of snow geese Anser caerulescens have increased fourfold 1973-98, with a population of around 10 million nesting in Canada each year.
The Aleutian Canada goose, once thought extinct, was officially taken off the endangered species list in March 2001. Its numbers had increased since the 1960s from several hundred to about 37,000.
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