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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Seeking greener pastures: crop selection by Greylag Geese (Anser anser) during the moulting season

Strong, Emily A.; Redpath, Steve M.; Montras-Janer, Teresa; Elmberg, Johan; Mansson, Johan


Over the last 40 years, many goose populations have recovered from historic lows and are now more numerous than ever. At the same time, geese have shifted from natural foraging habitats to securing most of their nutritional demands from agricultural fields, leading to crop damage and conflict with agriculture. We studied field use by Greylag Geese (Anser anser) in the agricultural landscape surrounding a main breeding and moulting lake in Sweden. From 2012 to 2016, weekly roadside surveys were conducted from May to July. Data were collected on goose numbers, crop type and sward height in agricultural fields. Using a compositional analysis, we demonstrate that Greylag Geese show a strong selection for ley and pasture fields compared to other crop types (rank order: ley/pasture > oat > barley > wheat > other crops). This selection was consistent across years and between pre- and post-moult. Aside from ley and pasture, no other crop types were selected for, as they were used less than expected given their availability. Irrespective of crop type, geese foraged predominantly on short (0-10 cm) swards. The strong selection for ley and pasture may have been driven by higher nutritional quality of short, managed grass swards relative to other available foods. This suggests that during the summer grass fields may be more vulnerable to damage compared to other crop types. Our study provides a deeper understanding of the ecology of Greylag Geese, which may be used to inform management strategies focused on mitigating crop damage and alleviating conflict.

Published in

Ornis Fennica
2021, Volume: 98, number: 1, pages: 16-32

      SLU Authors

    • Redpath, Stephen

      • UKÄ Subject classification


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