Hebrides Today

News from the Western Isles

Action to halt falling geese numbers

Posted by Editor On February - 24 - 2009

Geese conservationists flocked to Islay today (February 24) for an international summit titled: 'Greenland White-fronted Goose Study'.

The event is a three day conference and workshop at the Machrie Hotel, Islay, where more than 50 experts, bird conservationists and government policy makers from Greenland, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland and UK will converge to discuss the survival of these distinctive geese.


Since 1999 when peak numbers of 35,600 geese were recorded their numbers have tumbled by nearly a third to the most recent count in spring 2008 which estimated the population at just 23,200. 


This decline is now causing concern in all the countries which collectively support the entire world population of this goose. In Scotland, SNH has listed the geese for conservation action under the Species Action Framework to establish a programme of management to support these birds.


The Greenland White-fronted Goose breeds only in west Greenland,

migrating in spring and autumn through south and west Iceland to wintering grounds in the north and west of Scotland, west Wales and Ireland.


Goslings born in Greenland have to fly 3,000 km to the UK and Ireland

when they are only 10 weeks old, although they do get a break in Iceland.


While wintering in the UK and Ireland, and staging in Iceland, these

geese traditionally fed on peatlands and wetlands.  However, in recent decades, they have moved to feeding on agricultural land.


The decline of the geese is thought to be caused by low productivity; as the birds are no longer producing enough young to replace those that die each year. 


Scotland holds approximately 13,000 Greenland White-fronted Geese, with

over half, approximately 7,000, wintering on the island of Islay.


The conference, supported by the Scottish Government, will combine international cooperation and knowledge sharing to try to produce a cross border strategy.


The conference will also bring a welcome boost to Islay's visitor numbers in February as the delegates will naturally be travelling around Islay with scheduled visits to Ballygrant, Gruinart RSPB reserve, and Bowmore.  


For more information about the Greenland White-fronted Goose log on to: