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White-fronted goose (rspb-images.com)

Making a living link between the tundra fringe of western Greenland (where they breed) and places around the rim of Scotland, flocks of this globally rare goose arrive here in autumn and stay until spring.

What to look for

The white-fronted goose is a large, grey bird. Its plumage looks much darker than that of a greylag goose, especially in the Greenland race which winters in Scotland. For adult white-fronts, the name gives a good clue to identification. Look for white on the forehead, above an orange-yellow bill.

Interesting facts

Greenland white-fronts have a taste for bog plants, such as certain types of rush. To help conserve this rare bird, distillers on Islay agreed in the 1980s to stop taking peat (to flavour whisky) from a favourite Greenland white-front feeding area. The peat now comes from a less sensitive site on the island.

When and where to see

Flocks arrive from mid-September and leave for Greenland around the middle of April. Islay attracts more than half of these wintering birds. Smaller numbers winter on Orkney, in Caithness, in Kintyre, on other Hebridean islands beyond Islay, around Loch Lomond and along the Galloway part of the Solway coast.

Hotspots

For superb Greenland white-front watching, there’s nothing to beat Loch Gruinart on Islay (the whole island can host more than 10,000 of these birds). Elsewhere, you could find groups of a few hundred in places such as Orkney mainland and nearby islands, Endrick Mouth by Loch Lomond and Loch Ken in Galloway.

For more information see the Greenland white-fronted goose page from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.