E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Anser brachyrhynchus Baillon, 1834
Pink-footed Goose
Family: Anatidae
Photo of species

© Val George  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #101407)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Anser brachyrhynchus in British Columbia
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Species Information

The First Record of Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) in British Columbia.

By Rick Toochin and Don Cecile.

Read the full article with photos here.

Introduction and Distribution

The Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) is a species of waterfowl that breeds on arctic tundra and mountainsides in Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard which is a Norwegian archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole (Boertmann 1994, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). This species is a short distance migrant that winters from in the British Isles, mostly in Scotland (Boertmann 1994), and into North-western Europe from Denmark, northern Germany into the Netherlands (Jonsson 1992). The Pink-footed Goose is a casual, but increasing vagrant along the East Coast of North America with records in Canada from Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, and records in the Unites States from New England south to Pennsylvania, and Delaware (Sherony 2008, Dunn and Alderfer 2011). There are no accepted records for central or western North America (Dunn and Alderfer 2011).

There is a record for Washington State that involved up to 2 birds observed over 2 years (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). The records are as follows: 1 bird first found at Hoquiam, then Elma, Grays Harbor County, November 5, 2003 -January 11, 2004; then 2 birds found at Hoquiam February 21-April 10, 2005, and later 1 bird found at Elma November 5, 2003-April 21, 2005 (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). These birds were photographed and the identification was confirmed as correct, but these records were not accepted by the Washington Bird Records Committee due to uncertain origin concerns (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008).

A recent record in British Columbia of 2 birds found in the Victoria area from January 18-1 February, 2017, also has uncertain origin concerns (D. Cecile Pers. Comm.).

There are no accepted records for California (Hamilton et al. 2007, Tietz and McCaskie 2017), Oregon (OFO 2016), or for Alaska (Gibson et al. 2017).

Occurrence and Documentation

The Pink-footed Goose is one of the more unlikely vagrant species to have been reported in British Columbia. There is a recent record of 2 birds originally found and photographed by John Peetsma in the Martindale Flats area of Saanich, outside Victoria, on January 18, 2017 (M. Hafting pers. comm.). The birds were thought to be Greater White-fronted Geese and this sighting did not come to light until they were independently discovered and photographed by Liron Gerstman who correctly identified them as Pink-footed Geese on January 22, 2017 (M. Hafting Pers. Comm.). The birds wandered about Saanich and the Victoria area and were seen by many observers till March 19, 2017 (D. Cecile (personal observation.). They were even recorded as far north as Cherry Point Road in Duncan from March 3-5, 2017 and were noted travelling back to the Victoria area within this time frame (D. Cecile Pers. Comm.). The countability of these birds is problematic as they are kept in captivity, but not commonly, and have been seen in at least one collection of waterfowl in the Lower Mainland (R. Toochin personal observation.).

The Pink-footed Goose was critically endangered, with Svalbard populations plummeting to less than 5000 in the 1950s and Greenland and Iceland populations reaching 20,000-30,000 in the 1930s; by the mid- 1990s, the Svalbard population exceeded 38,000 and the Greenland and Iceland populations had reached about 250,000 (Boyd 2005). Breeding estimates of the Greenland and Icelandic populations indicate some 1,000 pairs in Greenland and 10, 000 pairs in Iceland (Madge and Burn 1988).

From monitoring winter counts it is evident that both populations are increasing, although changes in agricultural practices in recent decades have shifted some of the wintering grounds, as is the case in western Germany where less than 1,000 birds now winter (Madge and Burn 1988). The overall increase in the Pink-footed Goose population has been paralleled by an increase in reports from eastern North America (Sherony 2008, Dunn and Alderfer 2011).

The Pink-footed Goose shares its breeding range with the Greenland form of Greater White-fronted Goose (A. a. flavirostris) for which, like the Pink-footed Goose, there are no North American records west of Pennsylvania (Sherony 2008). There is a record for Washington State of 1 and then 2 birds that were seen in the Hoquiam, and then Elma, in Grays Harbor County, from November 5, 2003- April 21, 2005 (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). The birds were found with migratory wintering geese and did leave the region each winter during the summer months (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). The Washington Bird Records Committee found that this species is rare, but not unheard of in captivity (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). Consequently, the possibility that the birds could be escapees, coupled with the lack of records west of Pennsylvania for this species or for Greenland Greater White-fronted Goose (A.a. flavirostris) led the Washington Bird Records Committee to reject this record based on questions of origin (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008).

Of note, both British Columbia and Washington lie directly on a 180’ mis-orientation path for this species (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). So to play devil’s advocate, a breeding pair of Pinkfooted Geese from Greenland or Iceland could somehow get oriented in the exact opposite direction of its usual fall migratory path and could, if they found themselves with migrating geese heading south to the west coast, eventually end up in either British Columbia or Washington State (Mlodinow and Aanerud 2008). If in the future more records of this species are encountered along the central flyway and on the west coast, it is possible a pattern of vagrancy will develop. Until more records are found in British Columbia and the surrounding region, it is recommend being cautious with this record and leaving this record as identification of species is correct, but the origin as uncertain.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

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General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-06-15 4:04:09 PM]
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