Monday Bird of the Week No.42 – Barnacle Goose


Last week we looked at the big and noisy end of the goose world. Today it is something smaller, daintier, prettier, but no less persecuted. The Barnacle Goose.

We should get something out of the way early, the Barnacle Goose/Goose Barnacle question. Yes, it has in the past been suggested Barnacle Geese hatched from Goose Barnacles, hence the similar names. I’ve covered this one before though, so I’d just refer you back to this post.

Outside of feral populations, Barnacle Geese don’t breed in the UK. But truly wild wintering colonies can be found along the West coast of Scotland each year, with more than half the World population to be found there. It is here conflict arises as they are seen as a threat to farmland pastures. In late 2014 Scottish Natural Heritage, along with the National Farmers Union of Scotland, announced a new ‘strategy’ for managing the problem. They would eliminate a quarter of the population, then maintain this level.

Previously there was a more comprehensive strategy in place, but the Scottish Government have fallen into the classic trap of thinking ‘just shoot them, it’s quicker and cheaper’, even though in reality it is neither. The RSPB and WWT opposed this and rightly so, but for now the world population is facing a significant drop, all because of one country.

It’s a real shame, as these geese take on immense challenges from birth. They nest high atop cliffs, and when they hatch they are not fed at the nest. Instead the chicks plunge off the side, crashing down into the sea if they are lucky. They cannot fly and may also crash into land, where if they survive they risk being picked off by Arctic Fox. Make it alive to the water and all manner of predators above and below the surface could have their eye on you. To survive all that, make it South for winter, then get shot, seems unusually cruel.

Barnacle Gosling

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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