94. Anser brachyrhynchus


Anser brachyrhynchus, BAILLON.

Outer primaries grey, tipped with blackish ; inner primaries and outer secondaries uniformly blackish; all with white shafts.

Upper tail-coverts white.

Axillaries dark ashy.

Bill black, with a pale band across both mandibles, between the nail and the nostrils, and measuring about 1.7 from the forehead straight to the tip of the nail of the upper mandible.

Sexes alike.


THE occurrence of the Pink-footed Goose in India, up to recently, rested on evidence which could not altogether be looked upon as perfectly satisfactory, in view of the fact that there are so many Geese of the same type as the Bean-Goose, and all equally likely to visit India, as stragglers from the north.

Blyth first identified this species as Indian from a drawing of a specimen shot in the Punjab. Colonel Irby shot this Goose near Lucknow. Then Mr. Hume secured two Geese of this species in the Jumna river. Colonel Graham stated to him that this species was not uncommon on the Bhramaputra river in Assam. Again, Major-General J. H. McLeod informs us that he shot one of these Geese out of a flock of about twenty on the Kunawan jhil, near Gurdaspur in the Punjab. Lastly, there are two specimens, identified with this Goose, in the Lucknow Museum, which are Indian-killed.

Much doubt must be attached to the identification of a Goose of this type by Indian naturalists who do not have an opportunity of comparing their Indian specimens with others from Europe. Even English authors have confounded the Pink-footed Goose with allied species, and one of our most recent writers, the late Mr. Seebohm, says that this Goose " is so nearly related to the Bean-Goose that its specific distinction from that bird is doubtful." Of course there is no doubt in the minds of most persons, who have studied the subject, that the Bean and Pink-footed Geese are quite distinct, but I merely wish to show that these Geese are not quite the birds to be identified hastily by sportsmen, or even by good naturalists, without great care.

Fortunately, we have now excellent authority for admitting the Pink-footed Goose into the Indian list. Mr. E. C. Stuart Baker, in his admirable series of papers on the Indian Ducks in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, informs us that he procured a specimen of this Goose in Cachar, and his remarks and measurements fully sustain his identification of the species. The only question which now remains to be cleared up is whether the Pink-footed Goose which visits India is quite the same bird that inhabits Western Europe, or whether it may not be a race which differs from it in a somewhat similar manner that the Chinese Bean-Goose differs from the European Bean-Goose, namely, in the size of the bill or in the colour of the bill and legs.

To the list of the occurrences of a Pink-footed Goose within the limits of the Indian Empire must be added its occurrence at Fort Stedman, in the Southern Shan States, where my friend Colonel E. S. Hastings informs me he procured a specimen on November 12th, 1896. This place is so remote from the ordinary winter quarters of the Pink-footed Goose, that it serves to strengthen the suspicion that the Indian visitors of this type of Goose may well be some separate race from Central Asia or China.

The summer quarters of the Pink-footed Goose are Spitsbergen, Iceland, and prob¬ably Franz Josef Land. In winter it migrates to Western Europe, and is found in Great Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, and France. Its occurrence, therefore, in India must be looked upon as most extraordinary.

Writing of the habits of this Goose in England, Seebohm says :—" During their stay in this country in winter, the flocks of Pink-footed Geese spend most of the day feeding on the stubbles and in the winter corn. They are of course much persecuted, and have become very wary; as soon as it begins to get dark they leave their feeding-grounds and retire to the nearest sandbank on the coast; but as soon as the moon rises, they seem to think themselves safe again, and return to the fields, where they remain until the moon sets, and the darkness warns them to seek safety again on their favourite sandbank, perhaps a mile or two from shore. They seldom, if ever, frequent the mud-flats or the salt-marshes to feed on the marine vegetation, of which the Brent and the Bernacle Goose are so fond."

Mr. Cordeaux, in his " Birds of the Humber District," says, it " occurs occasionally, but never in such large flocks as the Bean-Goose. It is not unfrequently found singly, or two or three together, in our marshes and lowlands, and is more easily approached than either the Grey Lag- or Bean-Goose. In its habits it prefers low-lying districts, and wet carr or marsh land near the coast, as a rule, not resorting to the higher wolds to the same extent as its congener, the Bean-Goose."

Referring to a Goose they found on Spitsbergen, and which must undoubtedly have been the Pink-footed Goose, Messrs. Evans and Sturge state that they found it " breeding mostly on low rocks near the coast; but some seemed to have their nests in the high cliffs a mile or two from the sea." Mr. Trevor-Battye has given us a very good account of this Goose at its summer quarters in Spitsbergen. He says :—" The Pink-footed Goose is distributed thinly, but generally, over a great part, at any rate, of Spitsbergen. Its breeding-habits do not differ, so far as my observation goes, from those of A. erythropus or A. segetum. Like these birds, it seldom, on the mainland, nests by the sea, but retires inland, and chooses for its nest some elevated point overlooking a stream or lake. Occasionally it nests upon small islands, and a female bird, with its nest, eggs, and the surrounding turf, now in the National Collection, was obtained by me on a small island off Cape Boheman, in Ice Fjord, on June 26th; the three eggs being then slightly incubated. This was the only pair of Geese upon the island. I shot the female as she flew off the nest, and the male for some time displayed great solicitude, swimming round and round and calling incessantly, but never came within shot. . . . On July 24th two broods of young were running with their parents near the Splendid Glacier. Both these broods were in an advanced state of grey—not yellow—down. ... I have elsewhere described the way in which a Bean-Goose will run along and then squat with its neck stretched straight out along the ground, exactly in the attitude assumed by the Thick-knee or Norfolk Plover. The Pink-footed Geese of Spits¬bergen behave in the same way, if they have their young with them. Provided the ground is not too steep, they run for long distances, sometimes even along the edge of the water without entering it. Pink-footed Geese are remarkably quick upon their legs, and the young birds, when half-grown, can run as fast as the old ones; the latter, if hurried, run with outstretched wings, which hinder them against the wind; but if too closely pressed, the goose, which leads (the gander brings up the rear) will suddenly drop, and the whole party follow her example. You can then walk up and look at them lying there, all in precisely the same attitude, with bodies flattened down and necks outstretched on the ground, so that you must stir them up in order to start them off again. The nest is well guarded by the gander, who will leave his sentry-post and walk round and round the sitting goose on a little track made by his steps, resenting your intrusion by a continued series of short sharp notes, not unlike those of the Brent."

In the British Museum there are three eggs of this Goose, taken in Spitsbergen. They are rather smooth and have a little gloss. In shape they are regular ovals with one end rather sharper than the other. They are of a yellowish white colour, and measure from 3.1 to 3.4 in length and 2.15 in breadth.

The adult has the whole head and neck very dark brown, with a chocolate tinge, and often with a few white feathers at the base of the bill. The upper part of the mantle is brown, with a rufous tinge. The lower part of the mantle, the back, and the scapulars are brown, turning to rufous near the end of the feather and tipped with pale fulvous. The rump is dark ashy, the upper tail-coverts white. The tail is blackish, the feathers edged and tipped with white. The upper wing-coverts are greyish brown, margined more or less with fulvous, according to age, the lower series tipped with fulvous white. The outer primaries are grey tipped with black; the inner primaries and the outer secondaries uniformly blackish, the latter very narrowly margined with whitish. The inner secondaries are dark brown, more broadly edged with whitish. The whole breast is fulvous brown with pale margins, causing a barred appearance. The sides of the body are ashy brown, each feather turning to rufous and tipped paler. The remaining lower plumage is dull white, the upper part of the abdomen more or less distinctly barred with grey. The under wing-coverts and the axillaries are dark ashy.

Younger birds do not appear to differ in any important respect from the adult.

The male is a little larger than the female. The male measures: length about 28; wing about 16 ; tail about 5 1/2. The bill measures closely on 1.7 from the edge of the forehead straight to the tip of the nail of the upper mandible. The greatest depth of the visible portion of the lower mandible when the bill is closed is .2 only. The bill is black, with the pale band between the nostrils and the nail pink. This pink colour extends back as far as the hinder corner of the nostril, between the nostril and the margin of the mandible, and sometimes almost to the base of the upper mandible. The irides are brown. The legs and feet vary from flesh colour to pink and purplish pink. Little use can be made of the colour of the pale part of the bill and legs for the identification of this Goose, and the dimensions of the bill and wing are safer guides.

The other five Geese of the same type as the Bean-Goose are closely alike in plumage, and differ chiefly in size, in the length of the bill, and in the depth of the lower mandible. In the following measurements the length of the bill is always taken in a direct line from the edge of the forehead to the tip of the nail of the upper mandible. By the depth of the lower mandible is meant the greatest depth of its visible portion, when the bill is closed, below the edge of the upper mandible. The bill closes naturally and firmly if the two mandibles are brought together by the pressure of the fingers, even in a dry skin. It is only by a measurement of this kind that the massive or slender character of the lower mandible can be accurately indicated. I am not prepared to give trivial names to these Geese at present, but shall denote them by their systematic .names.

Anser fabalis, (Latham). This is the common Bean-Goose of Europe, admitted into the list of Indian birds by Messrs. Hume and Marshall on the strength of a statement made by Blyth that Gould had a specimen from the Deccan in his collection of birds. This specimen is no longer in the Gould Collection, which is now in the British Museum, and some mistake may have been made about it. The bill is slender, measuring from 2.1 to 2'6 in length, and .3 to .35 in the depth of the lower mandible. The wing measures from 17 to rather more than 18. The band across the bill is orange, and so are the feet. It extends east to the Yenesei river.

Anser neglectus, Sushkin. This recently described species can hardly be distinguished from A. fabalis, except by the colour of the bill and legs, and such characters require to be recorded immediately the bird is shot, if they are to be of any service, for in dry skins the bill and feet of the two species are quite alike. In A. neglectus, the band across the bill is of a bright rosy pink and the legs and feet are flesh-coloured. It is a slender-billed species, the depth of the lower mandible being but .25 in the only specimen I have been able to examine, an adult male. The length of the bill is 2.4, and of the wing 18.5. This Goose was first discovered in the Ufa Government, in Eastern Russia. It will be noticed that the colour of the bill and legs in this species corresponds closely with the colour of the same parts in the Pink-footed Goose, but the two species differ greatly in size.

Anser serrirostris, Gould. This is the eastern form of the common Bean-Goose, characterised by an extremely massive bill. It occurs in Eastern Asia, wintering in China and Japan. This is the form which will" probably be found to occur in Burma and the Shan States. The legs and bill are coloured as in the common Bean-Goose of Europe. The bill measures from 2.4 to 2.7 in length. The depth of the lower mandible is just half an inch, and the wing measures from 18 to 19.

Anser middendorffi, Severtzoff. No possible mistake can be made about this Goose. It differs from the other five Geese of this type in having the head and neck a fine golden buff, not chocolate-brown. In addition to this, the bill is of great size, measuring 3.2 in length, and .45 in the depth of the lower mandible. The wing measures 18.5 in a fine male in the British Museum, obtained by Radde in Amurland in May. Both Radde and Shrenck agree in stating that the legs and the band across the bill are orange-gold, and Middendorff figures the bill as such. This fine species appears to be found in a great part of Eastern and Northern Siberia, and very little is known about it,

Anser mentalis, sp. nov. On looking over the Geese in the British Museum, I was struck by the large size of one of the specimens, its massive bill and white chin. It came from Yokohama, and was once in the Seebohm Collection. I can only regard this Goose as a species which has not before been noticed, and I accordingly give it a distinguishing name. In plumage this species resembles the common Bean-Goose, except that the whole chin is white. The wing measures 19.6, but the sex of the bird is not known. The length of the bill is 2.85, and the depth of the lower mandible .55. There is nothing on the label of the specimen to show what the colour of the bill and legs was in life. This species, which occurs in Japan and probably in China, is as likely to be found in the eastern parts of Burma as any other species of this section.

Allied to the True Geese, but differing markedly from them in the shape of the bill, is the Swan-bill or Chinese Goose (Cygnopsis cygnoides). This species occurs commonly in China in the winter, and may consequently be found in the Northern Shan States. It has the primaries axillaries, and upper tail-coverts of the same colour as the True Geese, and the general colour of the plumage is the same. It has the hindneck and the crown of the head a pale chocolate-brown, and the remainder of the head and neck more or less white. The bill is very large, measuring 3.75 from the edge of the forehead straight to the tip of the upper mandible.
Quite different from the True Geese is the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis), which has very probably occurred in India, as suggested by Blyth. It has the primaries and axillaries black; the upper tail-coverts white. It is a small Goose, measuring about 21 inches in length, and the bill is not more than 1 inch in length. The above characters are alone sufficient to enable any one to separate this Goose from all the other Geese and Ducks of India. Both sexes, when adult, have the head and neck beautifully variegated with white, black, and chestnut, and the breast of the last colour. It occurs in Siberia, in Turkestan and on the Caspian Sea.

A Manual Of The Game Birds Of India(water Birds)
Oates, Eugene Wifliam. A manual of the game birds of India. Vol.2. 1899.
Title in Book: 
94. Anser brachyrhynchus
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Eugene William Oates
Page No: 
Common name: 
Pink Footed Goose
Pink-footed Goose
Anser brachyrhynchus
Vol. 2

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