It’s well known that there is, or perhaps was, a wildfowl collection on Grange ‘Duck Pond’. The wildfowlers who maintained it may have given up on it now, as the clipped birds were literally sitting ducks for an unusual line of theft before the pandemic and were stolen. But either way the Bar-headed Geese thrived and became full winged, these days they are as likely to be on the saltmarsh of Morecambe Bay as anywhere.
Sue King told me that there were a couple of Snow Geese with the flock of late. I wondered if they might have been the two that escaped from a German zoo park and incredibly ended up on Foula, Shetland. I asked Sue to check for rings if she got good views of the legs.
It turned out that I was able to answer my own question yesterday, as we dropped in at the park lake yesterday on the way to Barrow for my birthday. The geese were back in their spiritual home. One of the Snow Geese seen at closer range was clearly a hybrid. Snow Geese and Bar-headed Geese don’t meet that often in the wild, but presumably that’s what this individual is.
If you don’t know what a Bar-headed Goose looks like it might be helpful to see one. Here is a bird from the flock. They are quite stunning birds, and must be a spectacular sight flying high over the Himalayas on migration. They are one of the highest flying migrants in the world.
I was explaining my thoughts to Jane on why it was a Snow x Bar-headed hybrid, including the patterns of the wing feathers and the leg colour intermediate between pink and orange. Jane said ‘what about the leg colour on that Bar-headed Goose’, and sure enough this was another bird with mixed parentage.
To see some examples of Snow x Bar-headed Goose hybrids or backcrosses check out the following links:
There is a page on Northants Birds website called ‘Gruesome Goose Gallery’. Personally I find these hybrids and piecing together their parentage quite interesting and they rarely look gruesome. I might not have the right IDs for the two hybrids above, other thoughts welcome.