Grey by name and grey by status: the UK’s biggest goose sometimes seems inappropriately classified as “wildlife”. Common in flocks of mixed geese in the fields around Otley, the Greylag is the ancestor of most domestic geese, domesticated at least as early as 1360BC, and many are comfortable around humans. They are to be found in many a park, and I remember seeing one nesting in the middle of York Hospital car park, but the RSPB say those seen in Scotland “retain the special appeal of truly wild geese”. Anyway, regardless of label, they are interesting and attractive, and when they have young, a little scary, with their aggressive hissing. After driving away a predator, a gander will return to its family with a distinctive “triumph call”, a resonant honk followed by a low-pitched cackle which is reciprocated by mate and goslings. They usually mate for life. Some of the birds we see here now will return to Iceland to breed. The Latin name Anser Anser literally means Goose Goose (for the avoidance of doubt). Historically, the Greylag has been associated with gods of fertility and love.
By Neil Griffin Photo by Pixabay