Although Hume noticed in a pair of these birds he shot from among a flock of greys in 1864 on a sandbank in the Jumna, that as he looked down upon them from a cliff above "they were conspicuous by their smaller size, clove-brown colour (that is what they looked at a distance), and very pink feet," some allowance must be made for variation. The feet of the grey-lag are sometimes about the same shade as those of the pink-footed, and the tone of the plumage also varies, as well as the size, the pink-footed sometimes weighing as much as the smaller grey geese.
The real distinguishing point is the bill, which is black at the base and tip, only pink on the intermediate space, in young birds only a band nearer the end; the pink is sometimes very rich— carmine, in fact—and sometimes, both on the bill and feet, verges on or is replaced by orange. The slaty-grey inner half of the wing, however, which resembles the same part in the grey goose, though darker like the rest of the plumage, will distinguish a pink-footed goose whose feet are not a true pink from the orange-legged bean-goose; besides which the bean-goose is a big-hilled bird, the beak being two and a half to three inches, while the pink-footed, as indicated by its scientific name, which means " short-billed," has a particularly small beak, only a couple of inches long, and narrow in proportion.
The pink-footed goose is one of our winter rarities, but has been reported on several occasions, though actual specimens have very rarely been preserved. It has been reported from the Punjaub, Oudh, Assam, and the Shan States, and Mr. E. C. S. Baker has one procured in Cachar. This specimen was got by a fluke by one of his native collectors out of a very wide-awake flock of about a dozen, and a flock of twenty has been reported from the Punjaub.
It is possible, however, that, as Mr. Baker says, this species may have been mixed up with Sushkin's goose, Anser neglectus, a little-known species recently described, ranging as near as Persia, and believed to have been obtained in India.
This also has pink feet and the centre of the bill pink, but it resembles the bean-goose in plumage, having no slate-colour on the wing, and its bill is about two and a half inches long, though not so well developed as in the bean-goose. I must say I am very suspicious of all these supposed new species of geese, and I am inclined to suspect that as the pink-footed goose may have orange where it ought to be pink, the bean-goose may return the compliment. Also, What is there to prevent these nearly allied geese from hybridizing, which geese do most readily in captivity ? Anyone, therefore, shooting a pink-footed goose of any sort should be careful particularly to record the colour of wing and size of bill, these being the great points in these half-black-beaked species of geese.
The true pink-footed goose is a western bird, its breeding-places being in arctic Europe; it is the commonest of the "grey " inland-feeding geese known at home—in fact the most numerous of all our wild geese, except the " black" brent of the sea coasts.