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Greylag geese

A swirling gaggle of greylags, wild calls rising and falling on the wind as they sweep down to roost on a loch, is a top wildlife spectacle during the Scottish winter.

What to look for

Aside from swans, the greylag is the largest wildfowl species that you can see in Scotland. An adult has an orange bill. In flight, the broad swathe of pale grey feathers on the upper wings (which gives the bird its name) is very obvious. Greylag calls, like those of domestic geese, are loud and cackling.

Interesting facts

Aside from the tens of thousands of greylags that come here from Iceland in autumn and winter, Scotland has a small native population of breeding greylag geese. These breeders are thinly spread in Caithness, Sutherland, Wester Ross and the Hebrides.

When and where to see

Food-rich lochs and estuaries are favourite roost sites for greylag geese from late September until mid-April. During the day, greylags usually fly out to feed on farmland stubble fields and then return to roosts towards dusk. To avoid disturbing the birds, try to get in position in a hidden viewing spot in late afternoon, before the flocks begin to return.

Hotspots

Many of the best areas to see wintering greylags are in the east, including the Loch of Skene in Aberdeenshire, the Moray Firth coast. In summer, look for smaller numbers at places such as Loch Druidibeg on South Uist and around Benbecula and North Uist.

For more information see the RSPB's greylag goose  page.