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Pink footed geese (rspb-images.com)

See flock after flock of grey geese flying in ‘V’ formation over the eastern lowlands or Solway Firth in winter, and it’s a fair bet you’re looking at some of the tens of thousands of pink-footed geese that visit Scotland between September and April.

What to look for

Both pink-footed geese (aka ‘pinkfeet’) and greylag geese like to flock. See a solitary bird, and it will probably be calling and flying in search of others. To tell pinkfeet from greylags, look for the pinkfoot’s dark head and fairly short, pink bill; (despite the name, the feet aren’t a great clue to ID).

Interesting facts

As farming methods have changed, with a shift to larger fields and more winter-sown cereal crops, pinkfeet have changed their winter behaviour. In the past, they roosted mainly on mudflats and sandbanks in estuaries. Now they also like to use inland lochs and reservoirs, within easy flying range of fields where they can graze.

When and where to see

Pinkfeet arrive in Scotland from Iceland from mid-September onwards. October and November are often the peak months for very large gatherings (such as 15,000 or more in a single place). For good viewing, go to a hide or visitor centre overlooking a big roost site.

Hotspots

The reserves at the Loch of Strathbeg, Montrose Basin and Loch Leven all have comfortable look-outs over huge goose roosts. Caerlaverock has more modest numbers of pinkfeet, but also has excellent wildfowl viewing facilities.

For more information see the RSPB's pink-footed goose page.